Argentine soccer phenom Lionel Messi stormed into second behind Portuguese sensation Cristiano Ronaldo in the running for the European Golden Shoe award, following a stunning performance in Barcelona's 5-1 dominating victory over Valencia, where he racked up four goals in a row.
Messi, 24, now stands at 27 goals for the season, just one behind Real Madrid star Ronaldo, 27.
The European Golden Shoe, formerly known as the European Golden Boot, is awarded to the leading goalscorer of the season for any top-division team within a European league. Last year's winner was Ronaldo with 40 goals, and the year before was Messi with 34.
Both players are in first-division Spanish soccer league La Liga, which has produced winners of the Golden Shoe for the past three years. La Liga's season ends in May along with most other European leagues.
The award is presented by European Sports Media (ESM), an association of various media outlets covering European soccer leagues, which has developed a point-based system to determine the winner of the Golden Shoe.
The award is not actually given to a player who has scored the most amount of goals in a season, as it may be easier for players in less competitive leagues to score more goals. ESM has divided top-division European leagues between the top five and the remaining 16 based on UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) coefficients, which determine a league's ranking based on the performance of the country's national teams, national leagues and individual clubs over the past five seasons. Goals scored by players in any of the top five leagues (Spain: La Liga, England: Premier League, Germany: Bundesliga, France: Ligue 1 and Italy: Serie A) are worth two points. Goals scored in lower ranked leagues receive only one and a half points.
The system was put into place by ESM in 1996, when the media association became the official sponsor of the award.