Peter Crouch is 36 years old. He stands 6’7”, weighs roughly 170 pounds, and has played in England for just about the entirety of his footballing career. Bodies like his don’t typically age well, yet for the past month that always-smiling, lanky center forward has managed to turn back the clock—if only for a moment.
This past Wednesday, the magic lasted long enough to see him reach 100 EPL goals. Now in terms of describing his production, well, we can strike prolific from the vocabulary. After all, his career-mark in a single EPL season is 10 (2011-12). And, it took him 232 such appearances to reach the mark. Regardless, he reached it—only 25 others in England have—and here we are.
So with Crouch tallying his 100th, it got us thinking: Who’s next? So here are six players who could be knocking on that door over the next few seasons. Assuming they stay in England, that is.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Numbers as of Sunday, February 5, 2017.
Romelu Lukaku (76)
Fresh off his four-goal performance against AFC Bournemouth, Lukaku sits two goals shy of tying his season-high mark (18 last season) and, barring unexplained disappearance, should easily eclipse 20 league goals for the first time in his career. Oh, and he turns 24 in May.
Quite often a Lukaku discussion centers around his work ethic, but there’s no dismissing his production. In all but one of his four complete EPL campaigns, Lukaku has been involved in at least 23 goals—whether through assisting or finishing himself. After notching 18 with seven assists last season, Lukaku has 16 and four through 23 matches this time around.
Why should we expect him to stop any time soon?
Prediction: 2017-18 season.
Daniel Sturridge (71)
Oh, Daniel Sturridge. Not quite as easy here. Injuries sure haven’t been all that kind to the 27-year-old Englishman, and in this current Liverpool side, perhaps he simply no longer fits.
But remember 2013-14? Alongside Luis Suárez and a nearly unstoppable Liverpool attack, Sturridge notched a career-best 22 goals over 29 appearances. Since, including the current campaign, he’s manged 14. 40 appearances in a two-and-a-half-year stretch probably doesn’t lend itself much to consistency, either.
Yet as we’ve seen, a healthy Sturridge can be a productive one. Maybe it isn’t for Liverpool, or even a top English club as he ages given his injury history, but there are several outfits who wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) mind someone like Sturridge. And while you can make the case he should have reached this mountaintop already, that’s football.
Prediction: 2018-19 season.
Olivier Giroud (65)
Depending on who you ask, Giroud is either severely underrated or extremely good. Let’s meet somewhere in the middle.
Before moving to Ligue 1 side Montpellier ahead of 2010, the Frenchman made a name for himself at FC Tours—also in France—residing within Ligue 2. Peaking at Montpellier in 2011-12 (21 goals, 12 assists), he moved to Arsenal the following summer. He’s remained there ever since and has been solid, if unspectacular. A consistency that should not be taken for granted.
34 appearances in his first EPL campaign saw him tally 11 goals with five assists, and he’s only gotten better. He hasn’t notched fewer than 14 over a three-year stretch, and has eight to his name this time around with 14 matches remaining. But it appears as though Arsène Wenger isn’t as interested in utilizing the Frenchman as often as he used to.
Of his 17 appearances this season, 11 have come as a substitute. Additionally, he’s already 30. I’d like to say he hits the milestone within the next few seasons, I just don’t see him sticking around England for that long. But it’s going to be close.
Prediction: If he’s not playing for Arsenal, it’s hard to see Giroud staying in England. He’ll be gone following the 2017-18 season, at the latest.
Harry Kane (63)
Like Lukaku, Kane turns 24 this year. Unlike Lukaku, this is only going to be the Englishman’s third full-length EPL campaign. The first two saw him net 21 and 25 goals respectively, and he’s well on his way to another 20-goal year with 14 to his name while appearing just 19 times.
Yes, the one-year wonder that many desperately wanted never came to fruition, and Kane shows no sings of slowing down. Does that mean he’s going to average 20-plus per season and eventually break Alan Shearer’s record? Of course not. Heck if Tottenham doesn’t win a trophy within the next couple years, I can’t even guarantee he’ll stick around. But he’s not going anywhere just yet.
Prediction: It’d be a little ambitious to say by the end of the 2017-18 campaign, so I’m going early 2018-19.
Christian Benteke (60)
We haven’t forgotten about this Belgian, have we? Certainly nowhere near as consistent as his fellow countryman, Lukaku, Benteke burst onto the EPL scene with 19 goals for Aston Villa in 2012-13. He fell to 10 the following season (in eight less appearances) and the torn ACL that followed didn’t help matters.
Before moving to and flopping at Liverpool, Benteke rediscovered his shooting boots, notching 13 more for the Villans over 29 appearances in 2014. He’s got 18 to his name since, including nine over 22 appearances for relegation-threatened Crystal Palace this term.
Still, assuming Benteke will average 12-15 goals for the next several seasons doesn’t seem unreasonable. Moreover, there’s no reason to think a mid-table PL side won’t snatch him up should Palace drop.
Prediction: Not next season or even the one after, so… 2019-20.
Eden Hazard (51)
This one’s a bit tricky. On the one hand, Hazard is the only non-striker on this list. On the other, last season’s paltry output (four goals and assists apiece) is looking like more of an aberration than Leicester City’s title win with each passing match he plays under Antonio Conte.
Of course, before last season goals weren’t hard to come by for Hazard. He tallied 14 goals in consecutive terms between 2013-15, and that’s where he’s headed this time around as well. If this is the Chelsea we’re going to get for the next few years, why should we expect anything less from the Belgian superstar?
Or, is he going to move to Spain first?
Prediction: We’re putting him on the Benteke timeline; 2019-20.
And On the Outside Looking In…
Emmanuel Adebayor (97)
It took Adebayor 13 matches with Tottenham Hotspur in 2014 to notch only two goals. And, in 12 matches last season with Palace, he found the back of the net only once. But at 32 years old (33 in February) and having burned multiple bridges along the way, I’d wager his days in England are done.
Then again, if he has a positive experience at Turkish outfit Medipol Başakşehir, what’s stopping some desperate schmuck from giving him one last chance? And as it turns out, he wants to come back.
Have fun, England!
Dimitar Berbatov (94)
Even less of a chance than Adebayor, unfortunately. And that’s a genuine shame, too. Berbatov is already 36 years old, a free agent, and only managed four goals in 14 appearances for Greek side PAOK last year.
If his days are done, so be it. But he had some fun with Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham along the way—making it look pretty easy all the while.
Did I miss anyone? Do you feel as though the predictions are off? Fire away below!