But their extinction was too hastily proclaimed and their exile was short lived. Did they even leave the elite footballing consciousness anyway? Mario Gomez was a Bundesliga record transfer when he was sold to Bayern from Stuttgart in 2009, the year Barca won the treble, and he went on to score ten hat-tricks in his three seasons at Bayern. Didier Drogba was arguably the most dominant centre forward in the Premier League, scoring 29 goals in the 2009-10 season. But on the other hand, the top five scorers in La Liga in 08-09 were, respectively, Forlan, Eto’o, Villa, Messi, and Higuain, none of them remotely cast in the Shearer mould. Zlatan Imbrahimovic was Serie A’s top scorer that season, but stood taller than most on the list. Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard were second and third top scorers in England, behind Nicholas Anelka, who should be saluted (no, not like that Nicholas) for his efforts that season. But generally the top teams weren’t playing with classic number 9’s as their attacking focal point.
Again in this video of Giroud’s performance against Tottenham, at the 0:34 second mark, Giroud executes the typical duty for which his size and strength equip him perfectly; chesting down a long goal kick for a midfielder to collect. Then at 4:06, he collects the ball on the far touchline with two defenders surrounding him. He then, hugging the line, proceeds to dribble past both, and having completed the skinning, turns near the corner flag and dribbles into the box, squaring it perfectly for Walcott who fluffs the chance. Power and finesse must flow through the Neo-Target Man in equal measure. Admittedly, in both videos, the majority of interventions that Negredo and Giroud make are of the more Neanderthal persuasion; their observable qualities are more obviously suited to such acts, but crucially, they are (and have to be) capable of the latter type of technical brilliance.
The resurgence of the target man has required the new Number 9 to be a Renaissance Man. They need to be versed in the arts of the Number 10. They should all aspire to be part Andres Iniesta, part Grant Holt. Having two left feet but a bullet header won’t cut in the company of Negredo et al. An identifiable process of universality is occurring for every position on the football pitch, the compartmentalisation of football is being broken down and modern players need to be able to do more and more. The Target Man is not excluded from the demands of this process and the products of these standards are being enjoyed by football fans today. One rule is king now; versatility never goes out of fashion.