There are few individual gongs that elude Lionel Messi and he is fast closing in on the one that is missing from his trophy cabinet: the European Golden Shoe. The Argentine forward has scored 31 goals in the Primera Liga this season after his double for Barcelona against Tenerife on Tuesday, giving him 62 points in the race to be named the continent's leading marksman with two matches still to play.
Udinese's Antonio Di Natale, Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, who all have 26 goals and 52 points, have a slim chance of overhauling Messi, the Fifa World Player of the Year, with two Serie A matches and one Premier League game left. Gonzalo Higuain has netted 25 times for Real Madrid, giving him 50 points, and he had three games, starting with last night's trip to Mallorca, in which to catch his compatriot. Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, paid tribute to the prolific Messi, still only 22, who has 44 goals in all competitions and needs just three more in the league to match the club record of 34 in a season set by Ronaldo, the Brazilian striker, in the 1996/97 season.
In the running for the shoe
A Di Natale
"He was chasing passes in the second-half added time with the same enthusiasm as if it were the first minute," Guardiola said at a news conference after the 4-1 win over Tenerife. "That's because he's a born goalscorer and he has that gift," he added. Goals scored in Europe's top leagues such as the Premier League, Primera Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga are awarded two points and those in less prestigious leagues 1.5 points. Diego Forlan, Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan striker, was the Golden Shoe winner last season with 32 goals. * Reuters