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Race for the European Golden Shoe
The European Golden Shoe award (formerly the Golden Boot) has been presented to European football’s most prolific goalscorer at the end of the season since its inception in 1967-68, when Benfica and Portugal legend Eusebio claimed victory with 43 goals. Since then, many of the world’s greatest players have been amongst its alumni, including Germany’s Gerd Muller, Holland’s Marco Van Basten, Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez and France’s Thierry Henry. In recent times, of course, the trophy has been passed around as the spoils in a personal dual between football’s two modern-day superstars, Cristiano Ronaldo (four-time winner) and Lionel Messi (three times), with only Luis Saurez, who shared honours in 2013-14 with Real’s Number 7, somewhat breaking the duopoly.
Calculating the winner of the award is relatively simple. Only league goals are counted, and the relative difficulty of the league is taken into consideration, meaning that goals scored in the top five leading UEFA coefficient leagues (currently Spain, England, Italy, Germany and Portugal) are multiplied by a factor of two, the next sixteen leagues according to the same coefficient (including France, Holland and Belgium) are multiplied by a factor of 1.5, and goals scored in the smaller leagues are multiplied by a factor of 1. Thus, goals scored in higher ranked leagues will count for more than those scored in weaker leagues.
The 2015/16 edition
Unsurprisingly, this season’s quest for the honour of European football’s most dangerous frontman is being contested by a veritable who’s who of world football’s elite players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of course included. Currently the list is led by Benfica’s Brazilian attacker Jonas, who at 31 is not generally considered among the world’s finest (he only has eight caps for the Selecao), but is so far having the season of his life in notching an impressive 26 in only 24 matches. Just one goal behind are two bona-fide superstars in Napoli’s Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain and Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are a further two adrift. Messi, after an injury ravaged start to his season, has surged back into contention with nineteen goals (and a hat trick in his last outing), a number he shares with English football’s current leading scorer, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
Lower ranked coefficient contenders
The UEFA coefficient allows players from less celebrated leagues an opportunity to contest the award, and indeed Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi has managed 26 goals so far, but the factor of 1.5 employed due to the Israeli league’s coefficient reduces his place in the list to a number akin to 19.5 in a major league. Incredibly, one of world football’s biggest superstars, Paris Saint Germain’s Zalatan Ibrahimovic, has seen his quest to top the standings also hindered by his league’s coefficient – his 23 strikes again only being counted at a factor of 1.5 and reducing his tally to 17 (give or take). Nemanja Nikolic of Legia Warsaw in Poland’s Ekstraklasa joins the Swede on the same number (with the same factoring).
Who is likely to claim the award?
Of course it’s mighty difficult to look past La Liga’s big boys, but while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will be there or thereabouts, Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, perhaps in the form of his life for a Barca side seemingly destined to claim all before them, and with Messi, Neymar, Iniesta et al laying chances on a plate, the Uruguayan could pick up the award outright for the first time after sharing the prize with Ronaldo only two seasons ago, whilst of course he was playing in England for Liverpool.
By: Steven Paget