COLUMN: The one race remaining in La Liga that is still captivating

What’s left to decide in La Liga? Real Madrid have clinched the title with four weeks to spare, the top four are more or less set, and the only real drama in the European race overall is whether Ruben Baraja’s unfancied Valencia can crash the top-seven party. At the other end of the table, two-win Almeria’s relegation has been confirmed, Granada are just about gone, and Cadiz aren’t really showing signs of life down in 18th place as their four-year stay in the top flight nears an end.

But what if I told you that this has still been among the most fascinating seasons in recent memory anyway? We’ve had incredible drama at Barcelona, Athletic Club’s historic cup win, the first embers of a rebuild at one of the country’s biggest clubs, and a Pichichi race the likes of which we haven’t seen in more than a decade.

Who would have thought that after 34 weeks, Girona’s Artem Dovbyk would be atop the scoring charts? Dovbyk supplied an instant response to Barcelona’s opening goal in Saturday afternoon’s Catalan debry, and he went on to assist Portu’s equalizer five minutes after the hour in the eventual 4-2 win. Though questions currently surround Dovbyk over the manner in which he arrived at Girona, there’s little doubting that the Ukrainian has been the revelation of La Liga, on a team that no-one saw coming, on course to become only the second side in 15 years to split the Real Madrid – Barcelona duopoly. Dovbyk’s cushioned header on Saturday took his tally to 20 goals, and his 26 combined goals and assists are more than any other player – he’s gotten even better as the season has moved along. If he wins the Pichichi, he will be the first since 2009 to do it while playing for a team other than Barca or Madrid.

And it is Real Madrid’s newest Galactico who sits right behind Dovbyk in this hunt for top scorer. Jude Bellingham’s impact on Madrid and on La Liga was immediate – he scored against Athletic at San Mames less than 40 minutes into the season and he never looked back, standing out as the top player on a team that walked the league despite numerous injuries to its other stars. Bellingham scored 12 goals in 92 league games with Borussia Dortmund; he’s scored 18 times in his first 26 appearances in Spain’s top flight, including a tap-in two minutes after he entered Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Cadiz.

Robert Lewandowski has re-entered the Pichichi hunt with force as he seeks to make it two top-scorer distinctions in as many seasons in Spanish football. In his past five appearances, Lewandowski has scored five goals and set up two more, bringing his total to 25 goal contributions (17 scored/8 assisted) – just one behind Dovbyk. Lewandowski’s 13 non-penalty goals are his fewest in a season since he was a teenager in Poland – one of a few signs that he is slowing down as he approaches his 36th birthday – but it’s still the case that few forwards strike as much fear into a defense as he does. One needs only to look at his Metropolitano masterclass in March to see that Lewandowski can still bring it against the toughest opponents.

This Pichichi race also features feel-good stories. New dad Alexander Sorloth is finally making good on his potential in his age-28 season, as his 17 non-penalty goals are level with Bellingham for the league lead and two more than Dovbyk has registered. Osasuna’s Ante Budimir (16 goals) and Getafe’s Borja Mayoral (15 goals) each harboured legitimate ambition of winning the Pichichi too before they each suffered season-ending injuries. Their contention for this award, handed out annually by MARCA, shows the sheer number of forward flavours now found around La Liga  – a league in transition again, expecting the arrival of Kylian Mbappe this summer to deliver a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized shock to the system 15 years after the Portuguese too signed for Real Madrid.

La Liga might gain a lot in Mbappe – star power to market alongside Bellingham, in addition to newfound credibility that some observers believe the competition has lost in recent years. The league could become Madrid’s playground for the remainder of this decade, as Los Blancos’ accumulation of young talent and the clarity of their vision for the future appear to be much further developed than Barcelona’s or Atletico Madrid’s at this point in time. But I want to make sure to appreciate – even celebrate – players from Girona, Athletic, and Villarreal (also home to the league’s assists leader, Alex Baena) leaving their indelible mark as the 2023/24 season nears its end, and another era potentially taking shape this summer.

In the meantime, a Girona player might win the Pichichi for the first time ever. In the words of an infamous ad campaign: that’s not football, that’s got to be something else.

Tags Artem Dovbyk Barcelona Girona Jude Bellingham La Liga Pichichi Real Madrid Robert Lewandowski


  1. “The league could become Madrid’s playground for the remainder of this decade, as Los Blancos’ accumulation of young talent and the clarity of their vision for the future appear to be much further developed than Barcelona’s or Atletico Madrid’s at this point in time”

    Kiss the trophies goodbye, barceIongoIoid vermin AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Billions wasted
    Merely one Champ Leag. in over a decade
    Over half billion burned Ievers
    No CIasico victory in ten games
    Dumped out twice in Europa Leag.
    Change of four different coaches yielded thee trophies
    Last three years amounted less than one trophy average compared to our seven
    No trophies this season

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