Sunday’s final round of Liga fixtures brought confirmation that Leo Messi will be awarded the Golden Boot as the highest scorer in Europe’s top-flight divisions for the 2017-18 season with 34 league strikes.
The Argentinean had been neck-and-neck with Liverpool’s Mo Salah for much of the season, the Egypt international’s incredible debut season for the Anfield club eventually reaping 32 goals. But a slight drop in his phenomenal form in the final few weeks, when he failed to find the net against Stoke and Chelsea, opened the door for Messi, who accepted the invitation with a hat-trick against Deportivo and goals in subsequent games against Villarreal and Real Madrid. Despite being left out of the side for the 5-4 loss to Levante and failing to score in a brief cameo against Real Sociedad on Sunday night, the Argentinean beat Salah by two goals to retain the Golden Boot, moving him one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo to stand alone as the only player in history to win the award on five occasions.
In terms of the Pichichi trophy, Messi’s grip on the award was rarely in doubt after Ronaldo’s slow start to the season and despite a rally from the Portuguese in the second half of the season, the Barça forward ended the season with eight more Liga goals than his rival to also retain the trophy he won last year, while also adding a fifth Pichichi to his laurels overall.
Messi on the verge of matching the great Telmo Zarra
Messi now stands one Pichichi away from matching the most prolific Spanish striker in Liga history, who leads the way with a total of six: Telmo Zarra, who terrorised the division’s defences in the 1940s and 1950s. Messi’s fifth Pichichi also brought him level in second place in the total number of awards won alongside Liga greats Alfredo Di Stéfano, Quini and Húgo Sánchez. Ronaldo has three Pichichis to his name with the Real and Barça pair the only active players in the top 10 of overall winners.
Messi’s next challenge is to regain the Ballon d’Or from Ronaldo, who has won the last two editions. The Portuguese will probably find himself in pole position if Real win a third consecutive Champions League title next weekend against Liverpool, where Salah will also have a chance to stake his claim in the final in Kiev. For Messi, it may be a case of leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Russia, despite a domestic double with Barcelona this season.