Niclas Füllkrug (l.) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (r.) are two of the leading proponents of the art of the No.9 in the Bundesliga this season. - © Getty Images
Niclas Füllkrug (l.) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (r.) are two of the leading proponents of the art of the No.9 in the Bundesliga this season. - © Getty Images
bundesliga

Niclas Füllkrug, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and the Bundesliga forwards leading the No.9 revival

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The humble centre-forward is enjoying something of a revival in the modern game, and it's no surprise to see the Bundesliga leading the No.9 revolution.

bundesliga.com presents a selection of the No.9s who are currently banging in the goals for club and country…

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich)

Over the summer, Bayern said goodbye to Bundesliga legend Robert Lewandowski – arguably the best centre-forward of his generation, and a man who has done plenty to champion the No.9 cause over the years.

As Lewy's chapter came to a close, there was a sense that things could be done differently at the Allianz Arena. With attacking talents like new arrival Sadio Mane, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane, the record champions could make do without a recognised striker, right?

That thinking lasted a few weeks, especially when Bayern put six past Eintracht Frankfurt and seven past Bochum. But a run of four games without victory forced Julian Nagelsmann to rethink his plans, and Choupo-Moting – sidelined by a groin strain for the first few games – was handed his first start of the Bundesliga season on Matchday 10. He scored one and set up another in a 5-0 win over top-four rivals Freiburg, and hasn't looked back since.

Watch: Choupo-Moting analysis

The 33-year-old started the next five games before the World Cup break, scoring in four of them to take his tally to six goals in 10 outings, at a seriously impressive average rate of one every 86.5 minutes. More importantly, Bayern have secured a perfect six wins from six with Choupo-Moting starting as their lone striker, giving them a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga tree over the festive period.

"I'm very happy with Choupo's performances," coach Nagelsmann declared recently. "He's one of our best players at the moment. We're currently finding it easier to play with an out-and-out centre-forward, who is good with his back to goal, can hold up play and give his teammates the time they need to catch up."

Catch up with Choupo if you can! As well as starring in the Bundesliga, the Hamburg native was a key outlet for his country at the 2022 World Cup, scoring in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Serbia. With 11 goals in all competitions for Bayern, he has already matched his best single-season haul from 2013/14, when he was playing under Thomas Tuchel at Mainz. If he keeps up his current form, he will surely be one of the contenders to succeed Lewandowski as the Bundesliga's top scorer.

Niclas Füllkrug (Werder Bremen)

The past year has been quite a rollercoaster ride for Füllkrug. In January 2022, he was notching goals against Fortuna Düsseldorf and SC Paderborn down in Bundesliga 2, helping to power Bremen's return to the Bundesliga. By November, he was lashing in a vital equaliser for Germany in their high-octane World Cup clash with Spain, and in December he hit the net again against Costa Rica.

The 29-year-old has always been a reliable goal-getter, but he has really stepped things up in the last two seasons. After putting away 19 goals in the second division last term, he has picked up where he left off in the Bundesliga, with 10 goals in 14 games. Füllkrug is a rare breed in the current national squad, a pure centre-forward: powerful, good in the air and boasting a right foot that packs a serious punch.

Watch: Füllkrug - shooting to the top

"The way Fülle hammered the ball into the top corner was outstanding, it's an incredible story," Müller enthused after the 1-1 draw with Spain. "His goal was determination personified," added Leon Goretzka, hinting at the evolution of Füllkrug's mental strength since he became a fully-fledged international.

The former Greuther Fürth, Nuremberg and Hannover frontman was named the Bundesliga's Player of the Month in September and October for his goalscoring exploits, which have kept Bremen comfortably clear of the relegation zone. He helped Hannover survive with 14 Bundesliga goals in 2017/18, prompting the first calls for him to join a national team where he now looks right at home.

"We've almost always had a striker like him, with Miro [Klose], Mario Gomez," explained Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos, who retired from international duty in 2021. "They're the types of players who can really help you in certain situations, and Hansi Flick knows that."

Luckily for Füllkrug, the No.9 has never really gone out of fashion in the Germany squad.

Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

Another free-scoring Bundesliga striker whose domestic form helped him stamp a ticket to the World Cup, Thuram is on course for his most prolific season yet with Borussia Mönchengladbach. The 25-year-old netted 10 goals in 2019/20 following his summer arrival from French club Guingamp, and he's already matched that tally in the first half of 2022/23.

Thuram likes a big occasion; half of his goals have come against teams who are currently above Gladbach in the table – Bayern, Frankfurt, Dortmund and Wolfsburg. Meanwhile he notched a hat-trick in the 9-1 rout of SV Oberachern in the first round of the DFB Cup.

"I'm certainly not going to criticise his scoring rate, he's doing a super job," said Gladbach coach Daniel Farke. "If he keeps working like he is, he'll score many, many more goals for us. He's a young player and still getting used to the role of centre-forward. He's not yet at Robert Lewandowski’s level, but he can maybe score three goals on a very good day."

Watch: All of Thuram's Bundesliga goals in 2022/23 so far

As Farke explained, Thuram is adapting to the role of the lone striker – having previously been deployed in a two- or even three-man attack alongside the likes of Alassane Plea, Lars Stindl or Jonas Hofmann. But the son of France legend Lilian Thuram is clearly a fast learner, and the scary thing for Bundesliga defences is that he still has lots of room for improvement.

"I've worked really hard since last season, which was a bit of a strange one," Thuram declared. "At the start of this season I had a change of position, moving into a more central striker's role, and it's been an eye-opener. I've really worked on myself, and I think playing as a No.9 has actually made things easier for me."

No wonder the France striker is beginning to edge closer to the ‘world-class’ category of player is father was a fully fledged member of.

Anthony Modeste (Borussia Dortmund)

Like Bayern, Dortmund were forced to replace one of the finest No.9’s in the game following Erling Haaland’s departure over the summer. Sebastien Haller was brought in to fill the void, but his courageous battle with testicular cancer forced the club into an inevitable rethink.

They landed upon Modeste, whose 20 Bundesliga goals in 2021/22 were bettered only by Lewandowski, Haaland and Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick.

Watch: Modeste - Dortmund's Klassiker hero

"After analysing our performances from last season, we consciously decided to sign a classic centre-forward, who offers our attack a certain physicality, aerial presence and goal threat," said BVB sporting director Sebastian Kehl of the recruitment process that led to Modeste's signature.

"Against the backdrop of Sebastien Haller's illness, we're happy to have fulfilled that profile by adding Anthony Modeste to our squad. He's a seasoned professional, who knows the Bundesliga really well, scored 20 goals last season and is a perfect fit for the football Edin Terzic wants to play at BVB."

That is to say, to have a big target man able to hold up the ball and get on the end of deliveries from the team’s agile attacking midfielders, including Marco Reus, Gio Reyna and Julian Brandt. Standing at 6’2” and a 34-year-old veteran who knows how to use his imposing physique, Modeste has nevertheless needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings, hitting just two goals and one assist in 13 league outings so far for his new club…

Changing of the guard? Youssoufa Moukoko (l.) and Anthony Modeste (r.) have had contrasting fortunes for Dortmund this season. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Youssoufa Moukoko (Dortmund)

…all of which opened the door for Moukoko to stake his claim in the side. Born to score goals, which he did with abandon in the BVB youth teams, the attacker has stepped up to the plate this term.

Quick, strong, able to hold the ball up for teammates or finish with absolute ruthlessness – check out his brace against Bochum on Matchday 13 – Moukoko has all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned centre-forward.

He may only have turned 18 in late November – having become the Bundesliga’s youngest ever debutant when he took to the field for Dortmund the day after his 16th birthday - but he is still the club’s leading scorer in the Bundesliga this season with six goals and three assists.

On the bench for the first few games of 2022/23 as Terzic sought to iron out the creases in a new-look team, Moukoko has made 14 Bundesliga appearances so far this season, starting eight – including the team’s last seven.

Watch: All of Moukoko's goals and assists so far in 2022/23

“We show every week that we have boundless faith in Youssoufa, in his talent and his ability,” said Terzic. “He’s been a full member of the first-team squad since he was 17 and has played regularly. We’re delighted with his development.”

So impressive has the youngster been, in fact, that Hansi Flick included him in Germany’s World Cup squad in Qatar, where he made history once again as the country’s youngest tournament debutant when he took to the field against Japan.

“I’m really happy with the way he’s giving everything in training, everything’s wonderful,” Flick said. “Give him the time he needs. We want to support him in this.”