Skip to content

Messi, Ronaldo, and this season’s European Golden Shoe race … modified

Mar 26, 2012, 12:59 PM EDT

RCD Mallorca v FC Barcelona  - Liga BBVA Getty Images

The last two winners of Europe’s Golden Shoe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the only two realistic contenders for this year’s award. Each have scored 35 goals in league, and once UEFA applies their league strength adjustment, those totals will far out-distance the 31 goals Burak Yilmaz (Trabzonspor) has scored in Turkey.

UEFA’s adjustments are pretty straight forward, if a bit discouraging. For the leagues ranked sixth through 21st in the region, goal totals are multiplied by 1.5. Yilmaz’s 31 goals turn to 46.5. If you’re playing in the first through fifth-ranked leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and now, Portugal), your goal total is doubled. Messi and Ronaldo’s 35 goals turns to 70. Sorry, Burak.

Prior to 1996, there were no adjustments. In 1989-90 and 1990-91 (the last two years the award was officially given without adjustment), players from Yugoslavia and Bulgaria claimed it. During the “unofficial” years (1991-1996), players from Scotland, Wales, Armenia, and Georgia would have snagged it.

The adjustments are a step forward, if a bit crude. Drawing hard lines at five and 21 seems weird and arbitrary. Is the difference between Portugal and France, Croatia and Romania enough to justify those adjustments? Because as we see with Yilmaz, a .5 different on the multiplier makes a huge difference.

For some reason, I was thinking about all this this morning and asked (myself), “What would the Golden Shoe race look like if we eliminated these arbitrary lines – eliminated the arbitrary 2x, 1.5x modifiers – and based the adjustments on the coefficient itself?”

What does that mean? The “coefficient” is nothing but points accumulated over a five-season span, awarded when a team wins in Champions League or Europa. The logic? “Hey, your team got a result against a club from another league, and that hints at your league’s relative strength, so here – have some points. We’ll start adding these up.” When an English team gets a result in one of UEFA’s competitions, England gets points.

I didn’t say it was great logic, but hey, it’s something, and until something better comes along, it is (probably) better than nothing.

Over the last five years, England’s accumulated 83.16 points. That number means nothing, just know it’s the highest. Spain (79.329) and Germany (73.519) are next, followed by Italy (59.838) and Portugal (54.346).

All of which brings me back to this 2x versus 1.5x business. France, having just fallen to sixth, has a coefficient of 54.178. It’s practically equal to Portugal’s, yet goal scorers from the Primeira will get a 1.5x adjustment, Ligue 1’s won’t. Sorry, Olivier (Giroud, France’s leading goal scorer).

So here’s what I did: I took the top 15 leagues from Europe (15 because that’s the number of leagues that get more than the obligatory one entrant into Champions League), looked at their top goal scorers, and instead of applying the 2x and 1.5x, I applied a new ratio. That ratio: their league’s coefficient divided by the average coefficient of the top 15 leagues. The result is less clean, but it gets rid of that weird 5-6 threshold issue that’s been bothering me for the last few hours.

Smarter people have done smarter things with this, but I’m just trying to do one thing here: Get this annoying question out of my head. So, here’s your payoff. Please, don’t take it too seriously:


  1. robolundgren - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Saying they are the only two contenders is ridiculous. Van Persie HAS to be in consideration as well, you’re out of your mind if you don’t think the BPL is much stronger defensively than La Liga. He’s had an outstanding year. Hate Arsenal, so no bias there, just know what quality he is.

    • Richard Farley - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      Sorry: Maybe I didn’t explain the award. It goes to the top goal scorer. It’s based purely on stats. Van Persie is nine goals behind Ronaldo and Messi, right now.

      • bng10 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:25 PM

        Spain is looking a better league than PL this year with still having 5 teams left in Europe compared with PL’s 1 team. Prem is better defensively really? Why do spanish team usually beat english teams conceding not many goals.. And Richard Farley.. if you’re going to post something do it right Roberto Saldado plays for Valencia.

  2. bng10 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:40 PM


    • Richard Farley - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      Looks like we all make mistakes now and again? Claudio Pizarro’s name also has a typo in it, in the above chart.

      Definitely don’t mind my mistakes being called out. I’m going to make a lot of them on here. Whether the corrections are snide or polite, they’re all helpful.

  3. bng10 - Mar 28, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Haha, yeah fair enough. I didn’t mean to sound like a knob when saying just pointing it it. :)

    • Richard Farley - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:43 PM

      No worries. I’m glad you did. Honestly, I probably got a bit tired of typing in all the data (I had to type in a lot more players than were shown to make sure I had the right 20), so I probably wasn’t in the best mindset to proofread that table.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Premier League, Week 3 review