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Remembering when Diego Forlan was the best striker in Europe… Twice

He is the only player to win the Pichichi award twice without playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid

Diego Forlan was one of the best strikers of the 2000s.

We didn’t see the best of him in England when Sir Alex Ferguson bought him for £30m but he definitely proved it elsewhere.

The long-locked Uruguayan is just the fourth player to win Spain’s Pichichi trophy – awarded to the top scorer in La Liga – with two different clubs.


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The face of a double Pichichi winner

EPA
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The face of a double Pichichi winner

He is the only player to win two Pichichis without playing for either Barcelona or Real Madrid.

After leaving Man United in 2004, Forlan signed for Villarreal helping them to third place in La Liga and ending the season as the league’s top scorer.

Forlan joined Atletico Madrid two seasons later, firmly established as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers, and continued to bang them in.

Getty
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In the 2008-09 season Forlan couldn’t do anything but score.

He bagged 32 goals in just 33 games and won the Pichichi trophy and the European Golden Boot.

Take a bow.

But which season was better?

Villarreal  2004-05

Gold trophy, gold top, gold hair

AFP
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Gold trophy, gold top, gold hair

Villarreal was a team of great passers but lacked bite up front.

Juan Riquelme and Santi Cazorla will put it on a plate for any striker and Forlan lapped that up.

Valencia were up first and Forlan wasted no time getting his tally underway, scoring in a 2-1 defeat on his debut.

It took another five games for the Uruguayan to get his second but once he bagged against Zaragoza on game week six the floodgates opened.


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Another one

AFP
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Another one

By the time Barcelona visited the Estadio de la Ceramica in the 18th game of the season Forlan had hit seven goals but was about to unleash the fury.

Tucking away two against Barca began a spell of seven goals in five games.

With the team going well and Riquelme stepping up with a lot of penalties, the middle of the season was quite slow for the former United man.

Four goals in 11 games leading into the last few weeks was not going to win him the Pichichi, but fear not.

Forlan was saving the best until last.

Corn rows?

AFP
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Corn rows?

A brace against Getafe in game week 34 put the smell of blood back in the striker and set him up to go in for the kill in the last two games.

A hat trick away at the Nou Camp in a 3-3 draw in the penultimate game of the season put Forlan just one goal behind Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o going into the last week of the season.

Forlan’s double against Levante on the final day saw him sneak ahead of Eto’o in the goal scoring ranks and secure Villarreal’s Champions League place for the following season.

25 goals in 38 games at a rate of 0.66 per game was a great return to La Liga for Forlan and a good response to his haters in England.

Atletico Madrid 2008-09

The goal scoring look in his eyes

AFP
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The goal scoring look in his eyes

If you thought you had seen the best of Forlan during his goal-laden season at Villarreal, you were wrong.

Very wrong.

Forlan went to Atletico in 2007-08 and after scoring 23 goals in his first season he decided to tear the record books up in his second.

Striking up a potent relationship with a certain Sergio Aguero, Forlan led one of the most feared front lines in Europe.


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What a front line

AFP
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What a front line

The €21 million-striker opened his account in week two with a double against Malaga but couldn’t find the net again until the eighth game of the season, nabbing one away at his old club Villarreal.

The middle of the season saw a solid return of nine goals in six games before Forlan scored some crucial goals in the biggest games.

Madrid beat Barcelona in a 4-3 epic at the Vicente Calderon with Forlan scoring two crucial goals, his mate Aguero grabbed an 88th-minute winner for a memorable result.

The following week a trip across town to arch rivals Real Madrid was in order.

0.97 goals per game

PA:Empics Sport
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0.97 goals per game

Atletico opened the scoring through Forlan on the 38th minute but couldn’t hold on and drew 1-1.

When Atleti went to Racing Santander on game week 32 Forlan had scored 21 goals for the season and had the Pichichi and European Golden Boot in his sights.

He got a consolation goal in a 5-1 defeat signalling the beginning of a hot streak which would see him walk away with both top scorer trophies.

Avenging a 3-1 defeat at home to Real Betis earlier in the season, the Urguayan single-handedly won the game with two goals.

The floor is a goal drought

Graham Hughes - The Times
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The floor is a goal drought

Then seven goals in the last four games of the season, including a hat trick away at Athletic Bilbao, ensured Forlan finished the campaign as both Spain and Europe’s best striker.

Again pipping Samuel Eto’o to both awards, 32 goals in 33 games at a rate of 0.97 goals per game proved Forlan was the most lethal striker in the world that season.

Unfortunately Messi and Ronaldo turned up after that and took league scoring to a new level.

However, the feat of winning the Pichichi twice with neither being at Barcelona or Real Madrid is a massive achievement and should never be forgotten.