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Top 5 Contenders for La Liga Golden Boot

The Boot Room

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Last season’s thrilling title race in La Liga was contested by three clubs, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and their city rivals Real Madrid. Those clubs provided the top five scorers in the division and three of the contenders for the European Golden Boot. Cristiano Ronaldo led the way with thirty one goals thereby clinching the el Pichichi. In second place came Ronaldo’s only equal Lionel Messi, who plundered 28 goals in what for him, was a relatively poor campaign. Just beaten into third place was Diego Costa who scored a remarkable 27 goals. Remarkable for many reasons, most significantly the fact that Atletico didn’t actually score that many goals, and also that Costa had in the previous season scored a comparably modest ten goals. Arsenal new boy, Alexis Sanchez with nineteen and Karim Benzema with seventeen, filled positions four and five respectively.

How will the La Liga scoring charts look at the end of this coming season? Will the same players, with the exception of Sanchez, make up the list or will a new player break the hegemony? Below are the five players who I believe will top the scoring charts in Spain this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Despite Ronaldo having his lowest scoring season in four years it was still goal heavy and arguably his most successful. He won the Ballon D’Or, after years of finishing second to great rival Lionel Messi and was also crowned a European Champion. He also continued to set goal scoring records both domestically and in Europe. Indeed, particularly in Europe, Ronaldo appeared to be a man on a mission and finished the Champions League campaign with a record breaking, and frankly, ridiculous 17 goals.

It will be interesting to see how Real’s new signings, and the emergence of Gareth Bale, will impact upon Ronaldo’s goal scoring. On one view, the fact that James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos will now be supplying chances for Ronaldo could result in him scoring even more goals. However, it is more likely that given the greater goal threat across the midfield and attack, Ronaldo will not need to be the one man band that has carried Real in recent seasons.

Ronaldo will be Real’s top scorer this season but whether or not he retains el Pichini depends upon how Barcelona fare under Luis Enrique and whether Messi returns to his best.

Gareth Bale

Ronaldo’s Welsh team mate at the Bernabeu; Gareth Bale, is likely to push him all the way in the goal scoring stakes. In his first season in Spain, Bale scored 22 goals in all competitions, including an outstanding individual effort in the Copa Del Rey final against their great rivals from Catalonia, and the second goal in the Champions League final.

Having watched Bale in pre-season, it is clear that he has bulked up significantly and looks more powerful than before. He will also be more settled generally and accustomed to his team mates, and surroundings. Bale’s great strength is that he can score goals from anywhere and of every variety and given his ability from free kicks and his excellent movement in the box, another bumper season beckons.

Bale will continue to improve this season and will contribute a significant amount of goals to this new team of Galacticos. It is unlikely that he will overtake Ronaldo in terms of goals scored given that he will usually play on his unfaavoured right side and the fact that Ronaldo is still better in the air, but Gareth Bale will be in the upper echelons of the goal scoring charts this season.

Neymar

Neymar encountered a difficult first season in La Liga. He scored 15 goals in all competitions which was not a poor return but given how much Barcelona paid for him and the hype and excitement that surrounded his arrival at the Nou Camp, there had been more expected of him. His tendency to disappear from games was also a frustrating feature of his debut season.

Similarly to Bale, Neymar should be more settled in his second season. He will be more aware of the style of football in Spain and of his place in the team. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the injury that he suffered at the World Cup and of the ongoing tax fraud case surrounding his transfer from Santos, have upon his frame of mind and performance. Given the stunning manner in which he was able to carry the Brazilian team under intense expectation, Neymar’s professionalism and ability to deal with any pressure is probably beyond reproach.

Neymar is likely to perform to a much higher standard in the coming season. Question marks still stand over whether Messi and he can both shine in the same team but with a taste of what to expect and a sublime performance in the recent World Cup, Neymar look set to light up La Liga this season.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored 41 goals in all competitions last season, in what was his poorest return since the 2008/09 season. That in itself says a lot about just how consistent the player has been for his club over the last five years. Yet last season was indeed a frustrating one for Messi, as Barcelona were beaten to the league title and knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico and overcome by Real in the Copa Del Rey final. He was also beaten to the Ballon D’or and el Pichini and lost his most goals in a Champions League campaign record, to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi has looked somewhat jaded and short of his explosive best for some time now. He performed well in flashes at the World Cup, but did not deserve the Best Player award he received. He has gone from a player who dominated games previously to one who is on the periphery and will provide a couple of game changing moments of magic.

It will be interesting to see how Luis Enrique’s Barcelona team lines up and what role Messi will be assigned. Will he play through the middle, out wide or interchange frequently with Neymar, and indeed Suarez, when the Uruguayan returns? Irrespective of these questions, Messi remains a deadly finisher and a scorer of great goals, both of which mean he and Ronaldo are likely to battle it out for el Pichini.

Mario Mandzukic

Mandzukic has been brought in by Diego Simeone as a direct replacement for Chelsea new boy Diego Costa. Although slightly different players, both have a strong physical presence and are good both on the deck and in the air. Despite Costa’s fantastic performance last year, arguably Mandzukic is a more complete player and has been a more consistent performer over the last three to four years.

Atletico have by and large avoided large scale changes to their squad. Although Costa, Courtois and Luis have left, the spine of the team in Godin, Miranda, Gabi and Koke remain in place. Last season, Koke assisted the second most goals in the league after di Maria and crucially for Mandzukic, Atletico have also signed Antoine Griezmann. This talented French attacking midfielder is capable both of scoring goals (as he did sixteen times last season) but also of setting up a significant number of chances for his new Croatian team mate.

It will be extremely difficult for Atlético to replicate their form of last season. However, Los Rojiblancos have signed a talented striker who will ensure that Diego Costa is not sorely missed.


Who do you think will be able to grab the golden boot in La Liga? One of these five or will the top scorer come from out of this group? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Atletico Madrid

What is Diego Costa’s Chelsea legacy after three eventful years in the Premier League?

Rob Meech

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Diego Costa

Diego Costa’s controversial Chelsea career is finally set to come to an end. According to The Guardian, the Blues have agreed to sell the striker back to his former club, Atletico Madrid, for £57 million, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. Costa scored 59 goals from 120 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, winning the Premier League title on two occasions as well as the League Cup.

His uncompromising style won him few friends but there was no denying his influence and suitability to England’s top-flight. Costa’s relationship with Antonio Conte turned sour this summer when it emerged the Chelsea manager had told the Brazilian-born forward via text message that he was no longer in his plans. Costa pushed for a return to Atletico and was ostracised by Conte, who will no doubt be relieved this saga is now resolved.

What is Costa’s legacy at Chelsea?

Regardless of the negative reputation he had among the wider public, Costa was loved by the majority of Chelsea supporters and played a huge part in their domestic success during his spell at the club. Due to its competitiveness, the Premier League is notoriously difficult to win, so for the Blues to have done so twice in three years – under two different managers – is a remarkable feat. Costa’s goals were fundamental to this. Put simply, the Blues would not have been crowned champions without him. He netted 20 times in each of their title-winning campaigns and made life miserable for defenders.

Costa never strayed too far from controversy though and occasionally crossed the line of acceptable conduct. Infamously, he received a three-match ban in January 2015 for stamping. But the 28-year-old was always at his best when playing on the edge. Take that out of his game and he would definitely not be the same player. Jose Mourinho understood this compromise, but Conte found it harder to accommodate. With his high-intensity style, the Italian needed to know he could rely on each and every one of his players. Ultimately, he could not trust Costa to follow his instructions.

How will Chelsea fare without him?

Conte is a ruthless character and once he had made it clear that Costa’s days at Stamford Bridge were numbered, there was never a way back. The high-profile capture of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid was confirmation, if it were needed, that their relationship was irreparable and Conte had moved on. The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Spaniard, though, is that Conte signed a replacement very much in his image. Costa had taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, and Morata has very similar attributes. He too, has started in blistering fashion and looks tailor-made for the English game.

After their opening-day blip against Burnley, Chelsea have rediscovered their best form and are unbeaten in four Premier League games. On that score, it doesn’t appear that they are missing Costa. No player is bigger than the club and Conte had obviously grown tired of the Spain international’s antics, however entertaining they were for us, the viewers. Financially, the Blues have made an enormous profit on Costa, having signed him for £32 million just over three years ago.

Can Costa rebuild his career at Atletico?

Costa’s public desire to rejoin the club at which he won the La Liga title in 2014, highlights the affiliation he has with the club. He is perfectly suited to Diego Simeone’s brand of football and he will relish linking up with Antoine Griezmann. Atletico of course, remain under a transfer embargo, which means Costa will not be eligible to play for them until January. But once he is, it will surprise nobody if he is back on the goalscoring trail straight away.

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Could Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan make a surprise move to Watford to pave the way for Diego Costa’s return?

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Gaitan

This is certainly one of the more surprising stories to surface from transfer deadline day but the Hertfordshire Mercury claim that Watford have been offered Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan.

It is understood that the Spanish side are looking to clear room for Diego Costa – who is edging closer to an Atletico return according to the Daily Mail – and as such are ready to off-load Gaitan.

The report continues to say that although the La Liga outfit would rather have an up-front loan fee paid in the region of €2 million (£1.8 million) they are happy to add an option to buy in the deal.

What could the Argentine international bring to Vicarage Road?

It’s fair to say that Watford fans didn’t expect this when they woke up this morning. Nicolas Gaitan has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers across Europe in the past seven seasons, bursting on to the scene at Benfica in 2010 after arriving from Argentine side Boca Juniors.

In a six-year spell, spanning over 250 appearances, the 29-year-old found the net 41 times in all competitions and played a massive part in Benfica winning three consecutive Primeira Liga titles.

Despite beginning his footballing career in Argentina as more of a left-sided midfielder he began to develop into a dangerous player further up the pitch in Portugal, often being utilised in the number ten role just behind the striker, but he could easily fit in wherever Watford boss Marco Silva sees fit.

To attract a team like Atletico Madrid you already know that there’s a little bit of flair to his play, comfortable when driving at a static back-four and using his speed and close ball-control for results.

His excellent sense of vision in and around the final third would be an incredibly underrated asset should he join too, and he could spark a very productive partnership indeed with new man Andre Gray.

And although he played second fiddle to Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torries for most of last season, scoring three times in just 11 starts in La Liga, there’s little doubt he’d impress at Watford.

The Boot Room’s Verdict (1/5)

The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening.

And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.

Gaitan to Watford
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The Boot Room's Verdict
The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening. And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.
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As Atletico close in on Diego Costa, will Chelsea’s Antonio Conte rue his decision?

The Boot Room

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Costa

All decisions have consequences, and football managers in particular live or die by the paths that they choose during the course of their job.

So, with the Mirror reporting that Atletico Madrid are closing in on a £30 million deal for Chelsea outcast and former Los Rojiblancos striker Diego Costa, Antonio Conte will be the latest manager to put himself on the line with a seemingly impulsive leadership decision.

After telling the controversial forward that he was no longer part of the club’s plans by text at the end of last season, one of the summer’s most unsavoury transfer sagas could well be coming to a close.

The question is whether Conte will rue his decision in a season in which Chelsea must compete on both domestic and continental fronts, or unify the squad by removing an occasionally unsettling influence from its midst?

Will Conte return home to Madrid?

The deal itself is an unusual one, as while all parties are motivated to complete the transfer there is no guarantee that Atletico will sign their man before the window closes.

Due to the breakdown of the relationship between player and manager and Costa’s decision to remain in his native Brazil until a deal is concluded, Chelsea are determined to drive a hard bargain and the club’s posturing has hindered talks.

Even with a £30 million compromise in the offing, this is a transfer that is likely to run and run until the final moments of the window.

Atletico’s transfer embargo has also complicated any potential deal, but as The Guardian confirmed in pre-season the club can officially agree terms with Costa if Chelsea accept their bid.

The player would then be eligible to represent the club when the embargo is lifted on January, although Atletico would be keen for Costa to play on loan somewhere else in order to maintain his match fitness. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but it could distract Atletico in their attempts to land the Brazilian-born Spanish striker.

Everton may also be ready to provide a solution, with the club short of established strikers and the Independent reporting that manager Ronald Koeman would be willing to secure his services on a short-term loan. This would certainly add another piece to the jigsaw, helping to smooth any complications and help Costa achieve his dream move back to Madrid.

Will Conte Regret his Actions?

The saga surrounding Costa has been bizarre, with the striker deemed surplus to requirements despite scoring 20 league goals in 35 appearances as the Blues secured the title in Conte’s first season as manager. The issue first emerged last January, when Costa was linked to a move to China amid concerns over his fitness and dedication to the club.

Although a deal did not materialise, this seemed to fracture the relationship between the player and his manager, with the Italian famously discarding his striker by text at the end of last season.

While the relationship is almost certainly beyond repair, the question that remains is whether Conte will rue his conduct towards Costa. Deeming an experienced and proven forward surplus to requirements so soon after the season ended appeared reckless at best, particular with the Blues already short of alternative number -nines.

The subsequent signing of Alvaro Morata has done little to assuage the issue, as Chelsea continue to lack a strong and powerful centre-forward who can retain possession and link play.

Morata’s disappointing display during the 2-1 win against Tottenham at Wembley reaffirmed this, as while the Blues secured an impressive win they were constantly subjected to heavy pressure from Spurs due to their inability to retain the ball. Morata was too easily dominated by Tottenham’s powerful centre-halves, and Chelsea would have greatly benefited from Costa’s presence.

This is a trend that could well be repeated during other away games this season, during which the Blues will need to find alternative ways of playing if they are to be successful.

Time will tell for Conte, but Chelsea need options in attack

On a fundamental level, the Blues need further options and number in attack, particularly as they look to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season.

In this respect, discarding a player who is capable of scoring 20 or more goals each season seems detrimental to the team, regardless of how difficult he can be to manage within the group.

Only time will tell whether Conte made an inspired managerial decision by axing Costa, or simply allowed ego and impulse to weaken his squad at a time when Chelsea are looking to build on last years’ success.

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