10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2024

The idea of a super-sub legend might confuse those not deep into soccer.

It’s puzzling when substitutes consistently score. If a player does well off the bench, why not start them?

On this list, some were mainly starters, but there’s a unique group of strikers who, for different reasons, seem more effective as late entries.

A few are here due to sheer numbers—regular bench-warmers strategically used to maximize impact. Others simply spot opponents’ weaknesses sharply, learned from watching on the sidelines.

Yet, some of football’s greatest forwards have built their names coming off the bench, gaining the famous (or infamous) ‘super sub’ title.

Best Super-Subs In Football History

In the heat of a football match, when challenges arise, coaches frequently look to the bench for a player who can make a decisive impact.

A clever substitution has the power to shift the course of a football game and reverse the momentum in favor of the team.

Here are the 10 best super-subs in soccer.

1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 28 goals, 92.9 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History

Known as the “Baby Faced Assassin,” Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer from Manchester United is hailed as the greatest super-sub ever. This Norwegian winger scored a whopping 126 goals in 336 appearances for the club.

Solsjkaer earned his nickname by consistently being the Red Devils’ savior, with an impressive 28 goals coming off the bench.

His knack for scoring late winners became a signature move during his time at Old Trafford, and he did it with flair and style.

The most famous moment? The 1999 Champions League final winner secured the treble for Manchester United.

2. Jermain Defoe – 24 goals, 128.8 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History

Defoe might not always get the recognition he deserves as one of the Premier League’s greatest goal-scorers, but only seven players in history have scored more in the competition.

Whether playing for West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Sunderland, or now Bournemouth, Defoe has consistently been the go-to guy for goals, rarely falling short of expectations.

He’s been a terrific super sub for both clubs and country throughout his career, notching two goals in five substitutions for Tottenham this season – one against Newcastle United and the other against Fulham.

One of his most memorable runs as a super sub was from June 10, 2006, to September 5, 2009. During this period, he made five substitute appearances for Tottenham and England.

On June 10, 2009, in England vs. Andorra, he scored twice in the last 45 minutes off the bench.

3. Olivier Giroud – 21 goals, 95.8 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Current AC Milan striker, Olivier Giroud, was a super-sub for both Arsenal and Chelsea during his nearly 10-year stay in England.

Giroud wasn’t always a super-sub, but he played the role effortlessly.

With Arsene Wenger favoring Alexis Sanchez as Arsenal’s lead striker, Giroud found himself on the bench for 18 out of 29 Premier League appearances in his final season at the Emirates Stadium, resulting in five goals.

Giroud holds the second-highest tally of 21 Premier League goals scored as a substitute, following only Defoe.

In his later days at Arsenal and as an impact substitute at Chelsea, Giroud proved to be an effective option from the bench. Even after moving to AC Milan in 2021, he has continued this trend.

4. Javier Hernandez – 21 goals, 93.4 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Hernandez, the heir to Solskjaer’s throne at Old Trafford, arrived at Manchester United three years after the original super-sub had retired, embracing and excelling in the role before repeating the feat at Real Madrid.

Mexico’s all-time leading scorer has scored nine crucial goals in 21 substitute appearances for the club, showing a special ability to make an impact when needed.

He stands among the most lethal strikers in Premier League history when coming off the bench.

Despite finding himself behind the likes of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov at Manchester United, Hernandez consistently made an impact when summoned from the bench.

His speed and brilliant positional awareness made him a formidable sub, consistently putting him in scoring positions against tired defenses.

5. David Fairclough – 18 goals 93 mins-per goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

David Fairclough is Liverpool’s most celebrated super-sub, scoring 55 goals in 154 appearances for the Reds, with 18 of them coming off the bench in 62 appearances.

His most lethal period was the last half-hour of any match, contributing 35 goals from the 60th minute onward.

Fairclough, Liverpool’s renowned super-sub, emphasized that his match-winning success hinged on an uncanny ability to pinpoint the target.

Despite starting only 92 games in his eight years at Liverpool, his status as one of the most iconic goal-scorers in the club’s illustrious history is beyond doubt.

6. Nwankwo Kanu – 17 goals, 159.1 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Considered one of the Premier League’s ultimate cult heroes, Kanu found himself relegated to the bench due to the presence of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry in the Arsenal pecking order.

Despite this, he consistently made an impact when called upon.

A significant portion of his appearances came as a substitute, making him one of the most frequently used substitutes in Premier League history with 118 cameo appearances across spells at Arsenal, West Brom, and Portsmouth.

The former Nigeria international holds a cult status at the Emirates, earned during a memorable five-year period in north London where he contributed to winning two league titles and two FA Cups, making it a trophy-laden era.

7. Daniel Sturridge – 17 goals, 106.7 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Ironically, if Sturridge didn’t have injury issues, he probably wouldn’t be on this list; he’d be a regular starter scoring goals every week. 

Starting just five games for Manchester City, he made 16 substitute appearances before moving to Chelsea. Out of his 63 league appearances for the Blues, only 31 were as a starter.

Injury management has led to him being used as a sub quite a bit during his Liverpool career, despite being a star player there. He started 60 league games for the Reds and came off the bench 23 times.

Sturridge isn’t a natural super-sub, but his ability to impact the game as a late entrant is always crucial.

8. Peter Crouch – 16 goals, 178.1 min-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Crouch isn’t known for prolific goal-scoring, never hitting 15 in a single Premier League season.

Yet, managers have always valued him as a Plan B off the bench. With a towering height of  6’7″, Peter Crouch was the perfect substitute to exploit his height against tired defenders.

With 143 appearances off the bench, he holds the record for the most substitute roles in the Premier League. During those cameos, he managed to score 16 times.

9. Divock Origi – 15 goals, 93 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Some players on this list were underrated and unfairly labeled as mere goalscorers as if that’s a bad thing. Origi falls into that category—you don’t see him often, but when you do, you almost expect him to score.

He’s the first to admit he hasn’t played enough at Liverpool, which is why he’s decided to leave the club this summer.

Nevertheless, he’s left a lasting impression. His goal against Everton was his 12th as a substitute (11 in the Premier League), making up 30% of his total.

10. Tore Andre Flo – 13 goals, 95 mins-per-goal

10 Best Super-Subs In Soccer History | 2023

Never quite cementing a spot in Chelsea’s starting XIs, Tore Andre Flo, signed for a modest fee of £300,000, managed to score 50 goals in his 163 appearances for the Blues, with half of them coming from substitutions.

Despite not being a regular starter, he endeared himself to the fans at Stamford Bridge.

Flo gained a reputation for his knack for coming off the bench and creating attacking opportunities, frequently scoring pivotal goals that contributed to his team’s victories.

Other Best Super-subs In Soccer History

  • Victor Anichebe 14 goals
  • Edin Dzeko 13 goals
  • Andy Cole 13 goals
  • Darren Bent 13 goals
  • Sergio Aguero 12 goals
  • Robbie Keane 12 goals
  • Salomon Kanu 11 goals