Iago Aspas closes in on the record number of Zarra Trophies

The forward was LaLiga Santander’s top scoring Spaniard in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19, and can now equal David Villa’s record of winning this prize four times.

Iago Aspas has special memories of facing Deportivo Alavés. Back in 2009, he made just his second senior appearance against them as he scored two goals from the bench to steer his boyhood club RC Celta away from relegation to the third tier of Spanish football. This past Saturday, the forward rekindled that sense of joy with a typically ruthless display for RC Celta in a 4-0 win over the Basque club.

That saw him continue his fine form in front of goal, as his two strikes look set to cement his place in the history books as one of the finest ever strikers to grace LaLiga Santander. With 17 league goals this term, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has scored more than the 34-year-old.  

The Galician hitman’s double against Deportivo Alavés consisted of a confident first-time finish in the first half followed by a crisp second-half volley to round off the scoring. That took him two goals clear of Raúl de Tomás of RCD Espanyol in the running for the Zarra Trophy, which is named after the prolific striker Telmo Zarra, who plundered 251 goals in a 15-year period for Athletic Club, and which is given each year to the top scoring Spaniard in LaLiga Santander.

If Aspas can stay top of those standings in the final three games of the season, he will match LaLiga Santander legend David Villa’s record of winning the award for a fourth time.

Aspas has long established himself as a striker to be reckoned with, earning a move to Liverpool in 2013 and then spending a season on loan with Sevilla FC. But, it wasn’t until returning to RC Celta at the start of the 2015/16 season that he truly discovered his scoring prowess.

In his first spell with his hometown club, Aspas’ best goal return in the top flight was 12 strikes, a tally he immediately improved upon in his first season back in Galicia, scoring 14 times to help fire RC Celta to sixth place in LaLiga Santander and send them into Europa League. 

RC Celta enjoyed some of their greatest moments as a club when they played in Europe at the turn of this century and, led by Aspas, they had another memorable campaign in continental competition, reaching the semi-finals of the 2016/17 Europa League, only narrowly losing to Manchester United.

As well as his exploits in Europe, Aspas managed to improve on his domestic form, scoring 19 league goals in the 2016/17 campaign to win the Zarra Trophy for the first time. He did even better in the 2017/18 season, scoring a career-best 22 goals, before netting 20 times in the 2018/19 season to become the first player to collect the Zarra Trophy in three consecutive years.

The 2018/19 season was a fraught campaign for RC Celta, but one in which Aspas proved his worth more than ever, almost single-handedly helping the team avoid relegation with a late flurry of goals after returning from an injury.

He did the same in the 2019/20 season, with RC Celta again securing survival by the skin of their teeth thanks to his 14 goals. He was also talismanic last season, scoring 14 times and providing 13 assists, meaning he was involved in almost half of the 55 goals RC Celta scored.

His brilliant form in 2021/22 means he is set to finish as the team’s top scorer for a seventh season in a row, a sign of what he means to the club, which he first joined as an eight-year-old, having been born in the town of Moaña, a mere 20 kilometres from RC Celta’s training ground.

In addition to his enormous talent and talismanic record, his dedication and loyalty to his boyhood club have made him a firm favourite with fans, and last year LaLiga.com readers voted him as RC Celta’s ‘historic player’ ahead of fellow club greats Aleksandr Mostovoi and Gustavo López.

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