Who will be the Champions League top goalscorer?

Picking the Champions League top scorer should be a simple enough process. It’ll be Ronaldo or Messi.

Those two names have dominated the charts for the past few seasons. No surprises then that most of the bookies have the dynamic duo as first and second favourites. So, think Champions League top scorer? Think Spain. Just don’t only think of Real Madrid and Barcelona. There’s a new(ish) kid on the Iberian block. They’re unbeaten in La Liga. They’re joint top with Barca and five points clear of Real. They’re Atletico Madrid.

Then again, a Spanish team hasn’t made the Champions League final for the last two seasons, so there’s other teams from other countries worth considering. Holders Bayern, for instance, and the money-drenched big boys of French football, Paris St Germain.

Here’s five players who should be there or thereabouts when the final act is played out in Lisbon on May 24.

Cristiano Ronaldo
So you’re the biggest player at the biggest club in the world. You rule the roost, even if your haircut never quite hits the spot. Cue the wallet-busting arrival of Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu.

Has that put Ronaldo’s nose out of joint? Nah. This is a player with an almost unseemly belief in his own abilities. He thrives on proving people wrong. Ronaldo routinely outscores everyone at Real (and almost everyone anywhere else) in the Champions League. 2013/2014 will probably be no different.

Lionel Messi
So you’re the biggest player at the biggest club in the world. You rule the roost, even if your tax affairs have been meriting some unwanted scrutiny. Cue the wallet-busting arrival of Neymar to the Nou Camp.

Has that put Messi’s nose out of joint? Nah. Neymar might be the future, but Messi is very much Barcelona’s present. Everything revolves around him. When Barcelona click, Messi scores goals. A lot of goals. And even if Barca aren’t quite the force they were two or three seasons ago, Messi will score a lot of goals again this term.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris St Germain were unlucky not to make it past Barcelona in last season’s quarter finals. Both teams have been strengthened since then and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the French side reversed the result if the two teams met again in the latter stages this year.

Domestically, the arrival of equally stinking-rich Monaco onto the scene should keep Paris St Germain honest and sharp for the entire campaign – the sort of healthy competition that could help them stay at the top of their game in Europe too.

Similarly, new signing Edinson Cavani should keep Ibrahimovic motivated. Ibra is no Ronaldo – he’s often sulked rather than been inspired by a direct threat to his personal sense of superiority. But Ibrahimovic is a lot more mature these days. His time at the top is limited. This could be his last chance to prove how good he knows he is. And he takes the penalties.

Thomas Muller
Attacking midfielder Muller is a consistent scorer for Bayern in the Champions League. And now that new coach Pep Guardiola is looking to bring Total Football to Bavaria, Muller’s goalscoring opportunities should increase.

His odds are considerably longer than Bayern forward Mario Mandzukic, but Mandzukic is not a classic out-and-out goalscorer. He’s a facilitator, a player that makes the whole team tick: holding up the ball; creating space for onrushing midfielders; providing assists without even touching the ball.

Think Emile Heskey without the falling over. Muller is a great timer of runs into the box and a great finisher when he gets there. If Bayern are going to go close to defending their title – and it looks highly likely that they will – then Muller is going to be a key man.

Diego Costa
Meanwhile, back in Spain…there’s a Brazilian who’s about to become a Spaniard and he’s scoring goals for fun. He’s Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid’s main man.

Madrid’s blue collar club are mounting a serious challenge to Real/Barca’s La Liga monopoly, spurred on by Costa’s ten goals in eight league games thus far. Costa is a penalty taker too, making the generous odds on him being the Champions League’s top scorer look even more tempting.

Atletico have the experience and strength to go a long way in Europe – they’ve won the Europa League twice in the past four seasons – and they have an uncanny ability of unearthing world class strikers.

Costa is the latest of these. The previous two – Fernando Torres and Radamel Falcao – aren’t exactly bad. Expect Costa to have a similar impact.

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