Plot twist developing in Messi Ronaldo battle?
Once he started to get going, there was no stopping him. Almost 50 yards he raced, getting faster and faster until he gently engaged the brakes and, gentler still, placed the ball into the net. He’s no Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi; he doesn’t play for Madrid or Barcelona and nor do any of them: not the guy who got a last-minute winner to reach joint top; the gamemaker with a hat-trick of assists; the summer transfer who put his side in front; the experienced who pulled off a brilliant goal; or the local boy belting in a beauty. But this was no one-off and certainly no fluke. Not for Antoine Griezmann or Nolito, not for Marco Asensio, Borja Bastón, Aritz Aduriz or Lucas Pérez.
Spain’s usual suspects are somehow a little less usual this season. Even in a weekend brightened by a Barcelona player and being ended with Madrid top, a pleasing trend followed. One in which other games, other teams, and other players rebel in a country with a tendency to neglect the others. Even the Barcelona attacker who assaulted four times and produced a show of baffling brilliance, leaving defenders’ legs entwined in knots, knees pointing backwards, hips snapped in half, only it wasn’t Messi this time; it was Neymar. And while Ronaldo ended his most terrible drought in six years – a drought that sustained for four games long – Madrid’s real hero was Keylor Navas, the goalkeeper they tried to eliminate the option of who spent deadline day staring at that plane rooted there , its engine running.
Navas has already defended 91.6% of the shots he has faced this season. He is atop the list of Zamora table for the division’s best goalkeeper. Top of the Pichichi table is claimed by Neymar. That may sound somewhat familiar – Madrid with the leading position of the league (level with Celta and Barcelona) and Madrid and Barcelona players top of the individual awards – but something has changed. During the last six years, only Messi or Ronaldo have won the Pichichi and no team has been atop with so few points eight weeks in since Bernd Schuster’s Getafe in 2004. Madrid are the worst league leaders in over years, only “worst” doesn’t justify it. Let’s put it this way, even if it doesn’t last long, even when La Liga was a two-horse race, it was never because the rest were a bunch of donkeys. This season is helping to paraphrase that.