It's good that Ronaldo, Griezmann and Suarez not among Spain's top scorers

Spot the odd one out: Rodrigo, Cristhian Stuani, Claudio Beauvue, Cristiano Ronaldo. The answer, as you have probably guessed, is Cristiano Ronaldo. What you might not have guessed is why. So try this: Aritz Aduriz, Antonio Sanabria, Luis Suarez, Cedric Bakambu. That's right: Suarez. Well, who else? How about this? Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Leon, Simone Zaza, Mikel Oyarzabal. Griezmann, of course. But why? What makes them different?

Well, it's not the four European Cup finals in three years that they've played between them, the 69 La Liga goals they scored last season or the 166 they have scored over the past two years. It's not the 389 international games they've racked up, it's not the 146 international goals either, nor is it that they're the only ones on the list guaranteed to be going to the World Cup, or that only they have ever been on the podium at the Ballon d'Or. It's not that between them they (and they alone) have won the European Golden Shoe every year for eight years.


What makes Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suárez, and Antoine Griezmann the odd ones out is that they're the only players there not among Spain's top 10 goalscorers so far this season. Top 11, in fact, if we're counting -- and we are.

Last season, Suarez was Spain's second-top scorer with 28, Ronaldo was third and Griezmann was fifth. In between them, Iago Aspas was fourth, having scored 19. Yet nine weeks into this season, there are 28 players who have scored as many as Aspas -- the same 28 who have scored as many as Suarez. Fifty-seven players have scored as many as Griezmann, while there are 132 players who have scored as many as Ronaldo. Eight of them did so at the wrong end.

Mr. Own Goal is having quite a season, which is more than can be said for Ronaldo, Suarez and Griezmann up to now.

Lionel Messi, top scorer last season on 37 goals, is Spain's top scorer now on 11, but he is the only one from last year's top five to be in the top 10 so far this season too. There's no Karim Benzema either, and no-one from Sevilla, the other Champions League team (Ganso and Luis Muriel have two each). Look at the list -- Bakambu, Zaza, Maximiliano Gomez, Sanabria, Rodrigo, Oyarzabal, Stuani, Leon, Beauvue, Aduriz -- and it's not the usual suspects until you get down to Aduriz. Even if Bakambu and Zaza are the main striker at big clubs, men you might expect to get goals, this has been some start.

Bakambu has eight goals: he's only four off his total for the whole of last year. No player in Villarreal's history has ever reached this stage of the season (nine games in) with as many goals and he had never scored a hat-trick before.

Zaza (also on eight) hadn't scored for nine months when he joined Valencia and by the end of last season, he only had six. Before Valencia's last home game, he was presented with the award for La Liga's player of the month; by the end of it, he had scored again as they beat Sevilla 4-0. His partner (and they really are becoming a partnership) has scored five goals for Valencia and earned a Spain call-up. That makes this his best-ever campaign in terms of goals and with three quarters of the season still to go.

Sanabria scored the winner at the Santiago Bernabeu. Signed for €7.5 million, a pelvis injury had caused him constant problems all the way through last year to the point where the club demanded he get an operation. He returned to find a new regime under Quique Setien -- one that suited his game, where the movement and intelligence fits. When he headed in a late winner against Real Madrid, it was his first goal in six months and he didn't stop there. He scored for five weeks running and is now on six -- double his total in 2016-17.

Gomez joined Celta for €4m having scored 11 for Defensor in Uruguay. Nicknamed "the Bull," the 21-year-old began preseason on his own two weeks before everyone else and scored on his debut. More followed: he's more than half-way to that total already.

Add all their goals together last season and they still finished behind Messi. They may still be behind him this season but they're competing with him at least, insofar as anyone is. For now, at least.

This won't last, of course; in all probability, the list will make more familiar reading soon. Ronaldo missed the first five games of the season through suspension and it's hard to imagine a continuation of the misses that infuriate him. Top scorer in the Champions League last season, he had only scored two in the competition before the quarterfinal in April.

Griezmann and Suarez may be more lasting issues: Suarez has a knee problem and is struggling to find a clear role in a new set-up at Barcelona, one that is without Neymar and with Messi more central. Atletico, meanwhile, are creating few chances: their football currently lacks fluidity and they're waiting for Diego Costa... with everything that entails. And yet, it's hard to imagine that they won't finish the season among the highest scorers again.

It's hard, too, to imagine those who are up there with Messi continuing with such consistency. At this rate, Bakambu and Zaza would finish the season on 33: new records at their two clubs. But even if this doesn't continue, nor should it necessarily be a one-off or a moment to be forgotten. The emergence of new names and variety is also something to celebrate and embrace, a cause and consequence of their clubs' performances; it's something to hold onto, not just for Spain but football.

In the case of Valencia and Zaza, this is "a rebirth" to use his own words. This is where he wanted to be, where he was supposed to be, and where Valencia should be too. Competing again. Back among the best. "I used to think I was invincible," Zaza admitted, but then came that penalty: suddenly, unexpectedly, he was sunk. He went to West Ham where he didn't score once, the worst six months of his life.

"I didn't know where to start," Zaza told El País. "These last few months, I went mad. I didn't know how to pick up the pieces of my life. I had stopped being myself, in footballing terms. I had an injury but I don't believe in that: it was in my head. I didn't know how to begin again, I didn't know where to start."

So he started in Spain.