Unlikely scoring seasons
While many heralded Mohamed Salah as a potentially excellent signing in 2017, few could have envisaged the Egypt international scoring 31 goals in his first 34 Premier League appearances for Liverpool in 2017-18.
Yet while Salah’s feats have been unexpected, we’ve picked out 18 even more unlikely individual scoring seasons…
18. Paul Warhurst (18, 1992-93)
Journeyman Warhurst represented 16 different clubs during his career, and was deployed in almost every outfield position on the pitch. In 1992-93, Sheffield Wednesday were suffering an injury crisis up front, and Warhurst was deployed to plug the gap.
The decision proved a masterstroke: the defender-turned-frontman grabbed 18 goals in all competitions as Wednesday reached the FA Cup and League Cup finals, and was later called up for England as a striker (but injury meant he never won a cap).
17. Steve Bruce (19, 1990-91)
Centre-back Bruce proved a reliable goal-getter throughout his career thanks to his set-piece bravery and decisiveness from spot-kicks, but never more so than in the 1990-91 campaign when he bagged an astonishing 19 goals in all competitions for Manchester United – 11 from the spot.
With 13 of his 19 coming in the First Division, Bruce ended up finishing the season as United's joint-leading goal-getter in the league – only striker Brian McClair could match his tally that year. The defender continued to chip in with vital goals for the rest of his time at Old Trafford, including two in a crucial victory over Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.
16. Rogerio Ceni (21, 2005)
Fine goalkeeper and frustrated forward Ceni is the world's greatest-ever goalscoring netminder. He notched 131 times in a majestic 25-year career with Sao Paulo, which helped him win 16 Brazil caps from 1997 to 2006 (though he never actually found the net for his country).
Ceni enjoyed his best goalscoring season in 2005, when he struck an astonishing 21 goals for Sao Paulo. The set-piece specialist – besides penalties he also took free-kicks, which could lead to a sudden rapid retreat if the opponents gained possession – spent his entire career with the Tricolor and racked up over 1,200 appearances for the club.
15. Roque Santa Cruz (20, 2007-08)
Santa Cruz was tipped for greatness when he arrived at Bayern Munich from his native Paraguay in 1999 – but suffice to say, it only came in one season. After eight stop-start campaigns in Bavaria, Santa Cruz joined Blackburn for £3.5m and immediately impressed, netting 19 league goals for Rovers in his debut season.
Despite the Paraguayan only notching three in his second, Manchester City boss Mark Hughes willingly chucked £17.5m at the player he'd signed for Rovers in 2007 –but he couldn’t replicate his success a few miles down the road.
14. James Tavernier (15, 2015-16)
Former Newcastle full-back Tavernier joined Mark Warburton's new-look Rangers with a bang in 2015 when he netted 15 goals in the Gers' promotion season back to Scotland's top flight.
A dead-ball specialist, Tavernier buried a stunning free-kick on his debut in a 6-2 defeat of Hibernian and thumped in three more throughout the course of the season. Only Martyn Waghorn and Kenny Miller found the net more often in the league, as Rangers ended the season as second-tier champions.
13. Aden Flint (15, 2014-15)
In Bristol City's League One title-winning campaign of 2014-15, the Robins bagged 99 goals in league action with five of their players reaching double figures. One of those was centre-back Flint, who managed a barely believable 15 goals – and none of them came from penalties.
The 6ft 7in centre-back proved to be an indomitable threat from set-pieces, all while helping his defence concede the fewest goals of any team in the league. He’s also chipped in with seven goals so far this term as City targeted the Championship play-offs before tailing away a little.
12. Adel Taarabt (19, 2010-11)
A flamboyant playmaker with bags of potential, Taarabt was all set to prove himself as a top-level player after his 2010-11 season with QPR. The Moroccan plundered 19 goals in an irresistible Championship title-winning season with the R's... but then it all went belly-up.
QPR were hopeless in the Premier League, and fingers were pointed at Taarabt for his part in it – manager Harry Redknapp accused him of being unfit and the writing was on the wall. Fulham and Milan took him on loan spells, before Benfica handed him a five-year contract in 2015. He's currently on loan at Genoa.
11. Ian Harte (18, 2009-10)
A reliable set-piece specialist, the Irishman often chipped in with his fair share of goals every season – he managed 31 combined in all competitions between 1998-99 and 2001-02 – but it wasn't until his spell at Carlisle in 2009-10 that he hit his peak scoring form.
The former Leeds and Levante full back notched an impressive 18 goals in all competitions for the Cumbrians, including an absolute stunner in a 1-1 draw against Cheltenham.
10. Josh Morris (20, 2016-17)
Scunthorpe's Morris had only scored his first professional goal in February 2014 after making his senior debut in November 2010, but demonstrated his threat in a successful loan spell at Fleetwood with eight goals from the wing.
In 2016-17 he reached new heights upon being re-united with Graham Alexander at Glanford Park, scoring 20 goals in his first 52 games for the League One outfit. He’s not been quite as clinical in and around the penalty area this time around, but Morris has still struck 11 times in 32 matches in 2017-18.
9. Adam Barrett (11, 2004-05)
Over a 19-year playing career, wily campaigner Barrett was twice named in the PFA's fourth-tier Team of the Season and once in the third-tier edition.
In one of those seasons – 2004-05, as Southend won the fourth-tier play-offs – the central defender netted an impressive 11 goals from the back. That was his first campaign at Roots Hall; in seven more years with United, he never again hit double figures – although he did find the net three times in the Championship in 2006-07.
8. Lee McCulloch (26, 2012-13)
A former winger turned centre-back – you don't get those too often – McCulloch thrived during Rangers' successful climb back to the Scottish top flight after financial irregularities saw them relegated to the third division.
Despite playing at centre-back and central midfield throughout the season, McCulloch – a reliable goal contributer during his seven seasons at Wigan from 2001-07 – managed a whopping 26 net-ripplers in all competitions. He followed that up in 2013-14 with another 17 in the second tier.
7. Marco Materazzi (12, 2000-01)
The man famed for receiving Zinedine Zidane's head to his chest in the 2006 World Cup Final was much more than a wind-up merchant.
Materazzi – a Champions League winner with Inter in 2010, lest we forget – broke the Serie A record for goals from a defender in one season by notching 11 for Perugia from his centre-back slot. Seven came from the penalty spot, and it should have been eight really: one came from a rebound off a saved spot-kick.
6. Aaron Ramsey (16, 2013-14)
After a tricky start to his Arsenal career – not helped by a broken leg suffered against Stoke in 2010 – Ramsey came to the fore in 2013-14, when the Wales international smashed his previous best of four goals in one season.
He scored 16 in all competitions, 13 of them coming before Christmas (including two late Champions League winners away at Marseille and Borussia Dortmund). That included a run of seven in six Arsenal games (interrupted by an international break in which he scored for Wales). A Christmas thigh strain ruled him out of 14 Premier League games, but he returned to bag the winner in the FA Cup Final against Hull.
5. Daniel Passarella (24, 1976)
The Argentine legend was a rock at the back for his country for 12 years, and captained them to World Cup success in 1978. Before moving to Europe with Fiorentina in 1982, Passarella bagged a record 24 goals from centre-back for River Plate in 1976 – though he was generally a fine scorer, and held the record for goals from a defender until Ronald Koeman broke it.
He also achieved the Serie A record of 11 in his final season in Florence, which was later beaten by Marco Materazzi. Despite standing at just 5ft 8in, the Argentine was a major aerial threat from set-pieces, while he also took the odd penalty for club and country.
4. Derek Mountfield (14, 1984-85)
Centre-half Mountfield starred at Everton in the mid-to-late '80s, helping them to FA Cup glory in 1984 and later winning two league championship medals at Goodison Park.
The former England U21 man netted 14 goals from the heart of the backline in the second of those campaigns, including the winner in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final against Luton. After leaving the Toffees a year later, the Scouser never hit such heights again during his time at Aston Villa, Wolves, Carlisle, Northampton, Walsall and Scarborough.
3. Gaizka Mendieta (19, 1999-00)
Mendieta would become more of a deep-lying general as time went on, but he posed a significant scoring threat during his time in Valencia’s midfield. The Spaniard netted 19 in all competitions in his penultimate year at Mestalla, helping los Che finish third in La Liga and reach the 2000 Champions League Final.
It was enough to see him crowned European Midfielder of the Season and, a year later, earn him a €48m move to Lazio to replace Juan Sebastian Veron. But it didn't go to plan – after a year in Rome he left for Barcelona, then Middlesbrough, whom he helped to League Cup glory in 2004.
2. Phil Edwards (13, 2010-11)
Current Bury right-back Edwards had a Midas touch for Accrington Stanley in 2010-11, when he contributed 13 league goals against the odds.
Nine of those came from the penalty spot, but it was still a highly improbable feat: for context, the defender (or part-time defensive midfielder) has mustered only 13 goals in the following eight seasons combined at Stevenage, Rochdale, Burton, Oxford and Bury. Now 32 years old, he’s unlikely to ever beat his personal best from 2010-11.
1. Jose Luis Chilavert (12, 1997-98)
Maverick Paraguayan Chilavert was nicknamed 'The Bulldog' throughout his career, and often played with one printed on the front of his shirt. The goalkeeper racked up 67 goals for club and country in a 22-year career that featured spells in his home nation, Argentina, France and Uruguay.
Chilavert enjoyed his most prolific season with Velez Sarsfield in 1997-98, hitting 12 goals for El Fortin. He remains the only goalkeeper ever to score a hat-trick, a feat he achieved when he converted a treble of penalties against Ferro Oeste in 1999.
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