Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale grabbed hat-tricks against respective opponents Granada and Deportivo La Coruna this weekend to give their bids for the 2015-16 Golden Shoe a major push in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Gonzalo Higuain tied level with Borussia Dortmund talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the head of the standings after bagging a brace in Napoli's 5-1 win over Frosinone.
The Argentinian has 10 goals in his last eight league appearances, and his two-goal haul on Sunday helped the Partenopei claim a two-point cushion at the Serie A summit, bringing his 2015-16 goal tally up to 18 in the process.
The Golden Shoe's leader list also saw some major departures this weekend as Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller and Odion Ighalo each fell out of the 10. In their place, Benfica forward Jonas and Maccabi Tel Aviv's Eran Zahavi ascended after boosting their goal tallies for the season.
We provide an updated breakdown of Europe's top league scorers for the 2015-16 campaign and a look at which players are on track to make a challenge for this season's Golden Shoe.
|Position||Player||Team||Goals x Factor||Points|
|T1.||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Borussia Dortmund||18 x 2||36.0|
|T1.||Gonzalo Higuain||Napoli||18 x 2||36.0|
|T3.||Alex Teixeira||Shakhtar Donetsk||22 x 1.5||33.0|
|T3.||Nemanja Nikolic||Legia Warsaw||22 x 1.5||33.0|
|T5.||Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich||15 x 2||30.0|
|T5.||Jamie Vardy||Leicester City||15 x 2||30.0|
|T5.||Romelu Lukaku||Everton||15 x 2||30.0|
|T5.||Luis Suarez||Barcelona||15 x 2||30.0|
|T5.||Jonas||Benfica||15 x 2||30.0|
|T5.||Eran Zahavi||Maccabit Tel Aviv||20 x 1.5||30.0|
Rules: Each division is attributed a difficulty constant (between one and two), which is then multiplied by the number of goals scored to produce a total.
For example, La Liga is considered among the most difficult leagues to score in, so Neymar's 15 goals are doubled to create his points tally of 28. By contrast, the Lithuanian top flight has a constant of one, meaning Tomas Radzinevicius’s 28 goals equate to 28 points.
Slow Starters Messi and Bale Surging
Having each endured stuttered starts to their La Liga campaigns through injury, Messi and Bale are now on the rise in Europe's scoring hunt after netting three goals apiece over the weekend.
Bale's hat-trick against Depor brought his league total up to 12 as he made the ideal start to life under new Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, while Messi now has nine to his name after his first hat-trick of the La Liga season for Barcelona.
However, Breathe Sport highlighted the former as having the more productive term thus far:
Neither player sits in the Golden Shoe's top 10 scorers just yet, but the rest of the continent's hitmen will be looking over their shoulders as two of Europe's giants begin a renewed climb.
Even more impressive about Bale's share of the scoring count is his minutes-per-goal ratio, which Real Madrid TV presenter Phil Kitromilides outlined as second only to team-mate Karim Benzema in La Liga this season:
Minutes per goal in La Liga with half the season gone: Suarez 102 Neymar 95 Messi 108 Ronaldo 122 Bale 93 BENZEMA 73— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) January 10, 2016
Messi has won the Golden Shoe three times in his career, while Bale is threatening to best his finest total for goals scored in one season, currently the 26 netted in 2012-13, his last season at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Real Madrid winger can take heart from the start he's made under Zidane, and any doubt over his status as a Bernabeu starter will have undoubtedly simmered in the wake of his most recent performance.
Hotshot Higuain Soars to the Summit
The Bundesliga's winter break meant Dortmund ace Aubameyang was again prevented from adding to his goal tally, and Higuain pounced with claws outstretched against Frosinone.
One of Higuain's two goals came in the form of a spectacular solo finish, and BT Sport made sure to capture his moment of individual magic:
Napoli hammered the Serie A strugglers 5-1, a result which saw them climb two points ahead of Juventus at the top of the table and also made Maurizio Sarri's men the top scorers in Italy with 38 goals after 19 games.
Yet despite Higuain having so much to celebrate himself, the Albiceleste striker insisted on praising the team in his post-match comments, per Spanish newspaper AS:
To be honest, I'm really happy for the win. Luckily, we are in a good moment but we have to keep working so that we can improve; this team has so much more to give.
I don’t know any team who have won the league in January; we are only thinking about what we are doing, no one else.
It says a lot of Higuain's importance to the club's title charge that he's contributed 18 of their goals—just under half of their total—while Aubameyang's Dortmund have scored 47 in 17 games.
After winning the 2015 African Football of the Year award, Gabon international Aubameyang has been considered Europe's hottest scorer of late. However, his goal percentage for the Black and Yellows doesn't compare to that of Higuain at Napoli.