Top scorers’ lists have been dominated in recent seasons by Real Madrid and Barcelona players, but there’s one chart that the two clubs haven’t yet managed to top.
Among Spanish football’s goalscoring midfielders, a surprise name is at the summit.
That man is Raul Garcia.
The Bilbao star has 10 league strikes to his name this season – the joint-most when it comes to midfielders in La Liga alongside Isco, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Cedric Bakambu, Juanmi and Yannick Carrasco.
And across all competitions, the 30-year-old is the highest scoring out-and-out midfield man in Spanish football’s top flight since the start of the 2015/2016 campaign.
That’s 25 goals and counting.
25 - Raul Garcia has scored more goals than any other La Liga midfielder since the start of last season (all competitions). Hunter. pic.twitter.com/18XR7cPcAy— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 30, 2017
His latest efforts came during the victory over Celta Vigo as Bilbao stepped up their pursuit for a Europa League qualifying berth, moving ahead of Basque rivals Real Sociedad and back into sixth place..
Is Garcia one of La Liga’s underrated talents?
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Xavi has won a total of 31 major honours with Barcelona and Spain and the midfield maestro on Saturday added a 32nd piece of silverware to his trophy cabinet.
The Spaniard lifted the Qatar Cup as he captained Al Sadd to a 2-1 victory over El Jaish in the final. The 37-year-old came up against a former Barcelona team-mate and the opposition’s skipper in Seydou Keita in the encounter.
Xavi expressed his delight at seeing the team’s hard work this season being rewarded with a trophy.
“Our efforts didn’t go to waste. We managed to get the Qatar Cup after hard work from all the players, who deserve thanks and appreciation for what they have delivered throughout the match.”
The trophy is the first for Xavi since his arrival in the Middle-East last season. The playmaker has stood out in the ongoing campaign scoring 10 goals, a career high.
“The desire of the Al-Sadd players was very clear during the match. I am proud of winning my first title with the team in Qatar.
“I want to thank all the Al-Sadd fans who attended the match and supported the team. They had the biggest role in our title win.”
Beaming boss Henk ten Cate has declared sterling dedication and a collective spirit has driven Al Jazira towards their Arabian Gulf League success.
With the usual efficiency showcased throughout this transformational campaign, the long-term pacesetters eased towards a first title since 2010/11 with two games to spare. Leading scorer Ali Mabkhout moved onto 31 goals with a merciless hat-trick, his efforts being added to Brazilian forward Samuel Rosa’s volleyed own goal from countryman Leonardo’s teasing corner and substitute Ailton Almeida’s instant strike once unleashed from the bench.
The Jazira staff and players celebrated wildly in front of the loyal supporters who had ventured to the Hajar Mountains. Few of them, both fans and employees, would have dreamed the misery suffered by the fallen giants in the 2015/16 top flight would develop into supremacy just 12 months later.
Their superiority ensured the minimal target of coming away with the draw required to prevail was never threatened by a promoted side already assured of safety. It also meant usurped champions – who needed victory and a slip-up in the eastern region to extend the chase – Al Ahli’s 2-2 draw at Sharjah at the same time had no bearing on the destiny of the title.
“I’m a happy man,” said ex-Barcelona and Chelsea assistant Ten Cate, who turned down the Netherlands job on Monday. “Our dream came true, finally – if you believe in something you can achieve it.”
“We don’t have the best players – we know this – but for sure we have the best team.”
“If you score 67 goals, and concede only 15 – this is our 14th clean sheet – it’s something special.”
“When I started here, the group made a fantastic change, where they realised if the group do it together, then we could win something, starting with the President’s Cup last year.”
“But you have to strongly believe in this, you have to work your socks off, you have to be dedicated to the things you do. We still have two games to go and the team said they want to break the all-time record in points and victories.”
“Not one team before won 22 games, and this is now what they’re aiming for: to write history, and real history.”
“There is only one team who deserve the championship this year. And that is us.”
An upset was threatened in just the second minute as nine-goal Fluminense loanee Rosa rattled the base of the post from close range, with UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif well beaten.
This was the closest the defeated President’s Cup semi-finalists would get to their unflinching opponents. Influential summer arrival and Morocco playmaker Mbark Boussoufa soon chipped in an inviting cross from which Mabkhout rose unimpeded to head home.
For Ten Cate, he is confused as to why his predator is not a cherished icon in the UAE, saying: “We have one phenomenon: Ali Mabkhout. He is special. Man, he is special.”
“I feel sorry for him that he’s not so appreciated in this country.”
Jazira then held Hatta at arm’s length until they exploded after the interval. Rosa’s long limbs worked against him for an own goal, before Mabkhout unnervingly found the bottom corner to make it 3-0.
They refused to take their foot off Hatta’s neck, two more goals coming in the final throes. Substitute Ailton Almeida moved onto six AGL goals in 20 games as he slotted in shortly after being thrown on.
There was also still time for Mabkhout to escape with the match ball.
UAE prospect Khalfan Mubarak’s dancing feet were too inviting for the Tornado rearguard, with the 21-year-old being felled in the box for a penalty his senior team-mate was emphatically never going to miss.