Early-season La Liga review Part I
The Spanish sports daily
It was time, too, to hand out the newer, rather less traditional "Oscars"; the
There was also the Guruceta award for the best referee -- an award bizarrely named after the referee at the heart of one of the most mythologized "scandals" in Spanish football history, when he gave Real Madrid a penalty against Barcelona despite the foul occurring more than a yard outside the area and, more important, the referee whom the former Anderlecht president admitted to paying off to allow his side to beat Nottingham Forest in the semifinal of the 1984 UEFA Cup. That went to
Plus, there were special prizes for
And, yes, hidden and not-so-hidden agendas can make a difference. It is true that Messi won the Di Stéfano award, but he was such a clear candidate it would have been absurd for him not to have done so. Messi, Villa and Valdés won their awards on a purely statistical basis. And yet sadly, no, nothing is sacred; sometimes, not even the stats are.
So far this season,
The question is, Will that little bit of help be decisive? (a few years ago, a "goal" taken off
Just six weeks into the season, it's too soon to make definitive judgments, but here are some of the early candidates ...
At the start of the season, there were three obvious choices for the Pichichi: Messi (34 last season), Ronaldo (26 in just 29 games) and Villa. After all, Messi is Messi -- the reigning European Golden Boot winner -- and Villa had just come back from being top scorer at the World Cup (alongside his new Barcelona teammates), just as he was top scorer at Euro 2008. He scored 21 and 28 in each of his last two seasons, and over the course of his first-team career at Sporting Gijón, Real Zaragoza and Valencia, he had never dropped under 15. At Sporting, Zaragoza and Valencia! How could he fail to get loads of goals at Barcelona?! So far, he has just two (plus two in the Champions League), which isn't bad, but the signs of frustration are growing -- easy misses, shots off the post, even the penalty he scored was far from convincing.
Ronaldo also has looked a little anxious, irritated with himself when the ball doesn't go in and prone to shooting wildly from anywhere. But he is already on four (well, three), and it's hard to believe that he won't get lots of goals this season. Madrid is dominating more than ever before and Ronaldo remains at the heart of what it does.
Another obvious candidate,
But it's hard to see any of them being above the Barcelona pair and Ronaldo (or
As for an outside bet: Malaga might not always defend well or keep the ball wonderfully, but it has ridiculous pace up front with
Next up (on Monday): the Zamora, Guruceta, Puerta-Jarque, Miguel Muñoz and Di Stéfano awards.