Three months ago, Lionel Messi was 12 goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for this season's Golden Shoe. The Barcelona man's recent brace against Eibar, however, has seen him topple his Real Madrid rival's total to become Europe's leading domestic scorer.
As highlighted by Jamie Rainbow of WorldSoccer.com, Messi now leads the European Sports Media's Golden Shoe standings:
|Golden Shoe Rankings 2014-15: Mar. 16 Update|
|Position||Player||Club||Goals x Factor||Points|
|1||Lionel Messi||Barcelona||32 x 2||64|
|2||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||30 x 2||60|
|3||Alexander Meier||Eintracht Frankfurt||19 x 2||38|
|=4||Diego Costa||Chelsea||18 x 2||36|
|=4||Evgeni Kabaev||Sillamae Kalev||36 x 1||36|
|6||Alexandre Lacazette||Lyon||23 x 1.5||34.5|
|=7||Sergio Aguero||Manchester City||17 x 2||34|
|=7||Jackson Martinez||Porto||17 x 2||34|
|=7||Neymar||Barcelona||17 x 2||34|
|=7||Arjen Robben||Bayern Munich||17 x 2||34|
The ESM Golden Shoe rankings are decided through a simple formula. Goals scored are multiplied by a "factor" which determines the difficulty of each league, leading to a points total. Top divisions such as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga ensure relevant tallies are multiplied by two, with others curating lower sums.
This is best highlighted by Evgeni Kabaev's position alongside Chelsea's Diego Costa, despite scoring twice as many goals as the Spain international for Estonian side Sillamae Kalev. Russian Kabaev has now transferred to Indonesian team Persija Jakarta, so he is unable to move any higher.
Messi has already beaten last season's tally of 28 in La Liga, per WhoScored.com. His incredible 2011-12 total of 50 remains his highest in the domestic division, but he appears on track for at least 40 as the final stretch of the season arrives.
The Argentinian has scored 17 in his last 10 La Liga fixtures, easily overcoming the struggling threat of Ronaldo. Madrid's recent drop in form has seen them win one of their last three La Liga fixtures, surrendering first place to Barca. Ronaldo has scored five throughout his last 10 matches and was terribly unlucky not to add to his total during Los Blancos' recent win over Levante.
Gareth Bale (currently ranked 34th, per Rainbow) latched onto Ronaldo's rebound to provide Madrid with the lead, before deflecting another of the Portuguese icon's efforts into the net. Ronaldo appeared frustrated, per Ed Malyon of the Mirror:
Of course, both Messi and Ronaldo have an opportunity to add to their totals when the Clasico arrives on March 22. Victory for Barca will see them move four points ahead of Carlo Ancelotti's side, while any significant contribution from Messi will further underline his early credentials as this year's exceptional Ballon d'Or candidate.
Interestingly, OptaJose revealed both players have scored the same amount of braces along their careers:
Messi's former Barca team-mate Deco spoke to FourFourTwo (h/t Mark Doyle of Goal.com) about the duo. "(Lionel and Cristiano) are different," he said. "Messi was born with talent. Cristiano also has talent but it's amazing how hard he works at it; how professional he is. It's difficult to pick one but maybe Leo is the best I've ever played with."
Both forwards will need to string together an excellent stint of form as the business end of the season arrives. Barca and Madrid have aspirations to win the title. Both will also look to harness domestic dominance to help build a successful run for the Champions League.
While 2014 was undoubtedly dominated by Ronaldo, Messi continues to hit back with stunning numbers.