Top 10 Best Super Subs in Football History

Nwankwo Kanu best super subs in football history 16 Oct 1999: Nwankwo Kanu scores Arsenal's 4th goal during the FA Carling Premiership match against Everton at Highbury in London, England. Arsenal won the match 4 - 0.
Mandatory Credit: Tony O”Brien /Allsport

When the going gets tough during a football match, coaches often turn to the bench to bring on a player that will make a difference.

A brilliant substitution can change the dynamic of a football game and turn the momentum the other way.

Although a player from any position can be substituted in to make an impact in that particular role, attackers are mostly the ones managers turn to — which is why the term “super sub” is synonymous with forwards.

One may ask, if a player regularly scores whenever he comes off the bench, why not play him from the start? Simply, it is down to mentality. Some footballers are more dangerous and more determined when being brought on as substitutes against tired opponents.

In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG looks at the top 10 best super subs in football history.

1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer jersey number 20

Manchester United legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unarguably the greatest super sub of all time.

During his time at Old Trafford, the Norwegian made a reputation for himself due to his knack of netting late winners for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Nicknamed “The baby-faced assassin”, Solskjaer scored 126 goals in 366 appearances for Man Utd — with 28 of those goals coming off the bench.

Furthermore, he famously scored four goals as a sub against Nottingham Forest in 1999 — a Premier League record to date.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most memorable super sub strike came in the dying seconds of the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich — earning the Red Devils a historic treble.

2. Jermaine Defoe

Jermain Defoe highest paid players in the Scottish League

Jermaine Defoe played for 5 different Premier League teams, and he is officially the highest-scoring super sub in the league’s history, with 24 goals.

Not a perennial substitute, he was the first-choice striker at his teams in his prime, but extremely dangerous when brought in.

Nevertheless, Defoe’s best super sub appearance was on the international stage for England against the Netherlands in 2009, when he came off the bench to strike twice and famously rescued a draw for the Three Lions.

3. Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud best soccer players in France
(Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud scored 20 Premier League goals as a substitute – the second-highest tally in the division’s history behind only Defoe.

He became an efficient option from the bench in his latter days at Arsenal and was largely an impact substitute at Chelsea, too, before departing for AC Milan in 2021 — where he has continued the trend.

The Frenchman is known for his exceptional aerial prowess which enables him to score a lot of headed goals.

4. David Fairclough

David Fairclough best super subs in football history
Sport, Football, pic: circa 1982, David Fairclough, Liverpool (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

To Liverpool fans — and many others who have followed the game for generations — David Fairclough was in a league of his own.

He is Liverpool’s most
renowned super sub, scoring 55 goals in 154 career appearances for the Reds — 18 of which came from 62 appearances off the bench.

Fairclough said that the secret to his match-winning success was an uncanny ability to know where the target was.

He started just 92 games during his 8 years at Liverpool, yet his standing as one of the most famous goalscorers in the club’s illustrious history is without question.

5. Javier Hernandez “Chicharito”

Javier Hernandez Highest-Paid Players in the MLS 2021

Javier Hernandez, “Chicharito,” is among the most deadly strikers when coming off the bench in Premier League history.

At Manchester United, he found himself behind the likes of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. However, the Mexican almost always made an impact when summoned from the bench.

He was a great sub due to his rapid speed and brilliant positional awareness, which regularly allowed him to get into goalscoring positions against tired defenses.

More than half of Chicharito’s appearances for the Red Devils came from the bench. In total, he scored 16 times as a super sub.

In 103 total Premier League appearances for Man Utd, Hernandez managed an impressive 37 goals and 12 assists despite only actually starting 49 of those games.

He has been playing the Major League Soccer for a while now with LA Galaxy, and is one of the highest-paid soccer players in the MLS.

6. Luis Muriel

Luis Muriel

A career journeyman, Columbian striker Luis Muriel finally found a home at Serie A side, Atalanta — carving a reputation as an impact player off the bench.

In 2019/20, he averaged a league goal every 41 minutes when he started as a sub. He bagged 11 goals off the bench for Atalanta that season.

In the same season, Muriel became the best super sub in Europe. Of his 18 goals, 11 were scored when he came on as a substitute. He is one of the most underrated football players of his generation.

Furthermore, the Columbian became the only substitute player to score more than 10 goals in a single season in Serie A history.

7. Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch best super subs in football history STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Peter Crouch of Stoke City celebrates scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Hull City at Britannia Stadium on February 28, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Standing at 6’7, Peter Crouch was the ideal substitute to come in late during a tight game. His physical advantages made him a perfect ‘Plan B’ option for managers when chasing goals.

He regularly exploited his height against tired defenders, with the towering forward scoring more headed goals than any other player in Premier League history.

With 143 appearances off the bench, Crouch holds the record for most substitute cameos in the Premier League. He scored 16 times during those cameos.

Peter Crouch was always known for sporting a number 15 jersey.

8. Nwankwo Kanu

Nwankwo Kanu best super subs in football history 16 Oct 1999: Nwankwo Kanu scores Arsenal's 4th goal during the FA Carling Premiership match against Everton at Highbury in London, England. Arsenal won the match 4 - 0.
Mandatory Credit: Tony O”Brien /Allsport

Nwankwo Kanu had to settle for life on the bench, given he had Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry ahead of him in the Arsenal pecking order. But he regularly made an impact when called upon.

Almost half of his appearances were from the bench, and the forward was amongst the most used substitutes in Premier League history – racking up 118 cameos appearances over spells at Arsenal, West Brom, and Portsmouth.

The former Nigeria international retains a cult status at the Emirates following a memorable five-year spell in north London, winning two league titles and two FA Cups during a trophy-laden period.

Despite being one of the greatest super subs in football at club level, Kanu is considered to be an African football legend by his continent.

9. Divock Origi

Divock Origi best Super Subs in Football history WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Divock Origi of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool at Molineux on December 04, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England.
(Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

With the likes of Robert Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane to compete with, Divock Origi failed to hold down a starting place during his time at Liverpool.

But the Belgian was an effective super sub, especially on the biggest stages.

Origi scored a brace in the famous 2019 UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg comeback against Barcelona, which took Liverpool to the final.

In the final itself, he netted again, scoring the second goal against Tottenham Hotspur as Jurgen Klopp’s side won the trophy.

Moreso, Divock Origi became popular among the Kop for regularly scoring as a super sub against Merseyside rivals, Everton.

10. Tore Andre Flo

Tore Andre Flo best super subs in football history 20 Oct 1999: Joy for Chelsea scorer Tore Andre Flo in the UEFA Champions League Group H game against Galatasaray at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Chelsea won 5-0.
Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Signed for a mere fee of £300,000 by Chelsea, Tore Andre Flo scored 50 goals in his 163 appearances for the Blues — half of which were as a substitute.

He established himself as a fan favorite at Stamford Bridge.

Flo was known for his ability to come off the bench and creating attacking plays, often scoring crucial goals to help his team win.

He also represented Norway in international competitions such as the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, scoring 23 goals in 76 appearances for his country.

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