The last decade of La Liga’s top-scoring charts has been dominated by some of the greatest names the game has ever seen. Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Benzema, Falcao among others have all been in the running for the Picichi trophy – the award given out to the top scorer in Spain’s top flight. This season, a new man is leading the pack. He’s Uruguayan but he doesn’t play for Barcelona. He doesn’t even play for a team in the European places.
Girona’s purchase of Cristhian Stuani from Middlesbrough for a minimal fee in the summer of 2017 seemed a sensible move at the time. Both for club and player. His league debut saw him net twice against Atletico Madrid. Two months later, he opened the scoring in a memorable victory over Real Madrid. He netted winners against Levante, Getafe and Athletic Club by the start of February. He ended up with a league goal tally of 21 – only Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez and Iago Aspas got more.
This season, no one’s ahead of him in the scoring charts. Another strike against Atletico came on Saturday from the penalty spot, putting him on 11 goals in 12 games. The spot-kick saw him surpass Celta’s Aspas to take the outright lead once more after the Spaniard had leapfrogged him with a brace against Huesca. At 32, Stuani is a seasoned striker, and a well-travelled one at that. Spells in Italy and England with Reggina and Middlesbrough respectively while his roots stand firmly in Uruguayan football. Girona are his fourth Spanish club after Albacete, Levante and Racing Santander.
Jonas Ramalho’s own goal denied Stuani another winner in La Liga this season at Montilvi on Saturday afternoon. But his goal did prevent Diego Simeone’s team from going top of La Liga. Instead, Barcelona took that place on Sunday evening with a 2-0 win over Villarreal at the Camp Nou. Carlos Aleña’s first Barcelona goal was supplied by his footballing hero wearing the number 10 and the captain’s armband. Gerard Pique had headed the ‘blaugrana’ ahead before the 20-year-old La Masia product netted the second.
After the debacle in Eibar last weekend, Real Madrid returned to achieving credible results with a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over Valencia at the Bernabeu. A Daniel Wass own goal and Lucas Vasquez were the names on the scoresheet but the game pivoted on a moment from the man in between the Madrid sticks. Thibaut Courtois finally endeared himself to the ‘madrileños’ with a superb save; spreading to deny his former Chelsea teammate Michy Batshuayi inside the penalty area. For all their troubles and talks of crisis, Santiago Solari and his side sit just one point off the Champions League places and five points off the top.
The initial league leaders, Sevilla, had the chance to regain their rightful position in the Basque country on Sunday night when they faced Alavés. However, holding a spot in the top four themselves, Abelardo Fernandez’s men are no push-overs and proved that they deserve a place among the title contenders with a stubborn display. Wissam Ben Yedder’s 78th-minute equaliser spared Andalusian blushes at the ground where Real Madrid have already fallen.
The unpredictability of this season’s La Liga reared its head once more over the last few days. Eibar, conquerors of Madrid last week, were beaten by Rayo Vallecano. Leganés, originally without an away win to their name having scored just three times on the road, netted four in a thumping win in Valladolid. However, one team’s results are becoming simple to foretell. La Liga debutants Huesca are without a win since the first day of the season and currently languish in last with just seven points. The host Real Madrid next Sunday so maybe their fortunes could change.