La Liga top scorer 2021-22: Pichichi contenders after Messi exit

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • Updated: 9 Aug 2021 08:36 BST
  • 3 min read
FT Desk Updated: 9 Aug 2021 08:36 BST 3 min read
Lionel Messi had won the last five awards

Lionel Messi had won the last five awards

The news of Lionel Messi’s shock Barcelona exit has thrown many pre-season La Liga predictions out of the window.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid saw their title chances unquestionably boosted when the Barca legend’s Camp Nou departure was confirmed.

It also helped the chances of Spain’s other most prominent forwards when it comes to the 2021/22 Pichichi Trophy, which is given to the league’s top goalscorer.

Messi won the Pichichi an astonishing eight times, with 30 goals last season giving him his fifth consecutive success.

Favourites to win Pichichi Trophy

With Messi out of the picture and three-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo still in Italy with Juventus, there is only one active La Liga player who has won the Pichichi award before.

That man is Luis Suarez, who triumphed when he scored 40 times for Barca in 2015/16.

His move to Atletico was crucial in last season’s title race, with 21 goals in the top flight making the difference as his former club struggled.

Luis Suarez led Atletico to title glory

Luis Suarez led Atletico to title glory

If he wins a second Pichichi in a season when he will turn 35, it would be quite a feat.

Atletico will hope to see Joao Felix challenge, though he would have to make a big jump after only scoring seven times last season and six the year before.

For Real Madrid, veteran Karim Benzema will fancy his chances now that Messi has gone.

Only Messi scored more than his 23 La Liga goals last season and Real Madrid have not brought in any other star forwards to rival his spot in attack.

It would take a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for either Eden Hazard or the returning Gareth Bale to come close to the goal tally Benzema should produce if he avoids injury.

With Messi gone, new Barca signings Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero will be the main attacking options at Camp Nou along with Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann is a proven goalscorer in Spain’s top flight, though with just 22 goals from his first two seasons at Barca he has not been as prolific as he was at Atletico, at least while Messi was there.

Aguero scored an incredible184 Premier League goals and had four seasons scoring in double figures in Spain with Atletico in his youth, but has struggled for fitness over recent years.

Depay, who scored 20 goals for Lyon last season, will hope to be productive, particularly if he claims the club’s penalty-taking duties.

But while those are the biggest names, three players in the top six of the scoring charts last season played outside of Spain’s big three.

Gerard Moreno boosted his growing reputation with 23 league goals in a fine campaign for Villarreal, while Alexander Isak (17 goals for Real Sociedad) and Youssef En-Nesyri (18 for Sevilla) made impressive impacts.