Just when you think Cristiano Ronaldo can’t get any better, he seems to step his game up to a different level. After just six La Liga appearances this season, the Real Madrid star has already scored 13 goals and seemingly all but wrapped up the league’s goalscoring race already. Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao before the international break – his 26th treble for Real and third of the campaign – took his tally to 13 La Liga strikes in six games this season and saw the Portuguese star drop to as short as 1/7 with some bookmakers to repeat last year’s feat of finishing as the league’s leading scorer.
After a disappointing start to the year, Real Madrid have started to find their form and climb back up the table. While Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema have all started the new season well for a Real Madrid team given odds of 11/10 to win the title, it’s looking like much will rest on the shoulders of Ronaldo again this year if the La Liga trophy is going to return to the Bernabeu. Despite his impressive start to the season, there have been some questions as to just how fit the 29-year-old is and whether he’ll be able to get through a full La Liga campaign. If Ronaldo manages to avoid serious injury this season, Real will know they have a great chance of winning the title this season, and their number-seven will know he’ll most probably finish with another golden boot to his collection.
While it would take injury or something fairly dramatic for C7 not to top the scoring charts this season, let’s look at the chasing pack of players who will all be looking to take advantage of any slip up from Ronaldo in order to push their own case to finish the year as La Liga’s top scorer.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
As ever, Ronaldo’s main rival on many fronts this year will most likely be Lionel Messi. With six league goals to his name in seven appearances this season, it’s a testament to Ronaldo’s incredible start to the year that some have claimed Messi has been off the pace this year. While the Argentinean star may not have been as eye-catching as Ronaldo this season, Messi is still very much in the leading goalscorer mix this season and has looked as good as ever in recent weeks. With Barcelona the narrow betting favourites to win the title this year, the form of Messi will have a big say in whether the Catalan giants are able to fend off Ronaldo and Real from clawing them back at the top of the table.
On the back of a sensational personal World Cup showing, Neymar has continued to boost his own case as the world’s best player with a scintillating start to the season for Barcelona. While injury restricted Neymar during the early stages of the campaign, the Brazil star has been in prolific form since returning to the team; scoring seven goals in just four starts and two substitute appearances in the league. After scoring just nine La Liga goals in his debut season, Neymar didn’t start the year as many people’s tip to top the scoring charts, but the Brazilian could become one of Ronaldo’s main rival this year if he can build on this fabulous start to the season and prove he is now worthy of being considered in the same bracket as Ronaldo and Messi.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
If any misfortune strikes Ronaldo this season, Real Madrid fans will be looking to their world record signing Gareth Bale to pick up the slack and score the goals that would be missing from the team. The Welshman has already added four league goals to the 15 he scored in his debut league season in Spain, and the former Tottenham star will know he’ll need to be pushing nearer 20 goals if he is going to convince everyone he is worth what the club paid for him. Bale’s final season in England before his move to Spain showed he has what it takes to score 20+ goals in a league campaign, and the pressure might not be solely on Ronaldo’s shoulders to score the goals that see the club win the league this year.
Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Luis Suarez’ infamous biting incident during last summer’s World Cup meant his Barcelona career had to start three months later than he would have liked. And while it’s unlikely the Uruguayan will be able to catch Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts when he finally does make his competitive debut, Suarez will genuinely feel he still has enough time to make a real impact this season. On the back of a season with Liverpool in which he scored 31 league goals, Suarez will be hoping to make up for lost time when his worldwide competitive ban runs out later in October in time for El Clasico. After that, La Liga defences will have one of the world’s most clinical strikers on their hands and someone who has further strengthened this Barcelona attack.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Alongside Ronaldo and Bale, Karim Benzema completes one of European football’s most fearsome forward trios, and the Frenchman could be right up there with the league’s leading scorers again this season. With three goals to his name from six appearances, Benzema’s start to the new season has been a solid if unspectacular one, but that’s not to say the France international won’t be up near the 25-goal mark come the latter stages of the season. The arrival of James Rodriguez in the summer had some believing Benzema would be heading for the exit at the start of the season, but Real showed just how highly they value the striker by rejecting the advances of the likes of Arsenal and handing the Frenchman a new five-year contract. Benzema will now know it’s down to him to show the world just why the club had so much faith in him.