In all of European football, only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored domestic league goals more consistently than Chris Venables this season, and unlike the Aberystwyth Town FC midfielder, the Real Madrid CF man does not have to combine his footballing duties with a day job in a car dealership.
The first midfielder to score a century of Welsh Premier League goals, Venables is set to reach another milestone this weekend with his 300th appearance in the top flight. Highly rated by peers and pundits alike, the former Shrewsbury Town FC youth product turns 30 next year, and has not ruled out a return to the professional game. "If the opportunity arose and the circumstances were right, I would love to be able to go full-time," he told UEFA.com.
Clubs over the border in England will certainly be tempted to have a look at Venables, who became the first midfielder to win the Welsh Premier League golden boot with 24 goals in 30 appearances last season. This season the former Llanelli AFC captain has managed 21 goals from 17 games to lead the scoring charts by a ten-goal margin.
"I'm playing in a more advanced role than I have done previously," said Venables. "As a team we play a formation that gives me more freedom and less defensive responsibility. My preparation and application when I'm away from the training ground is what I consider the main reason for my goalscoring form. However, I have to give a lot of credit to the manager, Ian Hughes, for the success I'm having. He has identified what formation works best for us as a team and for me personally.
This is one of the most attacking teams that I've ever played in."
Venables has played in the Welsh Premier League since 2003/04 and is now in his second spell at Aberystwyth. He is also a veteran of five UEFA Europa League campaigns, the most recent concluding with a first qualifying round defeat by Derry City FC in the summer. "As a player you really look forward to European games," he explained. "I'm very grateful that I've been lucky enough to play in several ties. They are experiences you never forget."
Ever present in an Aberystwyth side currently third in the Welsh Premier League table, Venables has every belief that last season's Welsh Cup finalists can enjoy another successful campaign. "We will continue to take it one game at a time and not get carried away with our position in the league," he added. "But if we can keep everyone fit, then we definitely have the quality to go on and achieve something this season. On our day, we're a match for anyone."
Only six players have scored more league goals this season than their clubs have played league games. You now know two of them – now meet the rest.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF)
25 goals after 15 league games – 1.67 goals per game
"The Alfredo Di Stéfano of his generation" according to Madrid legend Francisco Gento, Ronaldo has been in scintillating form, helping the UEFA Champions League holders to win their last 21 games in all competitions. "When I finish my career I want to be one of the best ever," said the Portugal captain as he collected his European Golden Shoe award earlier this month.
Chris Venables (Aberystwyth Town FC)
21 goals after 17 league games – 1.24 goals per game
The first midfielder ever to win the Welsh Premier League's golden boot last season, with 24 goals in 30 games, Venables is proving his achievement was no fluke. "I'm pleased to have continued my form from last season," he told UEFA.com. "A lot of credit must go to my team-mates for supplying me, and hopefully I can continue to take my chances when they come along."
Andrej Kramarić (HNK Rijeka)
21 goals after 19 league games – 1.11 goals per game
Reborn since a move from GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Kramarić's goals in Europe and Croatia have made him hot property. He scored five in a November league game against another Zagreb club, NK Lokomotiva Zagreb: "It might sound arrogant, but I am sorry I didn't get a sixth," the 23-year-old said. "That would have been a record. I always want to score more, to be better. I am hungry for goals."
Eran Zahavi (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC)
15 goals after 13 league games – 1.15 goals per game
Injury ruined attacking midfielder Zahavi's chance of making an impact after he left Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC for US Città di Palermo in 2011, but his record since returning to Israel may yet tempt another foreign club to give him a chance; since joining Maccabi in 2012, he has 51 goals in 61 league games. He has scored at least once in his last nine games for club and country – 13 times in total.
Cesar Romero (FC Pyunik)
17 goals after 15 league games – 1.13 goals per game
At 25, Cesar Romero's second European adventure is proving to be more exciting than his first. The San Diego-born forward briefly played in the lower leagues in Germany before trying his luck in Mexico and back in the United States, where he represented Club Deportivo Chivas USA. "My target this season is to grow as a player and try to become a better person," he said. With 17 goals so far, the other CR7 is well on target.
Cristian Martínez (FC Santa Coloma)
12 goals after 11 league games – 1.09 goals per game
"I have never been on a list like this before – I'm very proud," Martínez told UEFA.com after his record put him up with the best in Europe. "I'm a winger, but I also can play behind the striker. I'm what you might call a 'nuisance player' – I'm very busy, I run around a lot, work hard and move a lot off the ball. Doing all that helps me to score goals."
Honourable mentions to the following strikers who have averaged a goal for each of their team's games this season:
Evgeni Kabaev (JK Sillimäe Kalev, Estonia) 36/36*
Jonatan Soriano (FC Salzburg, Austria) 19/19
Edison (Hibernians FC, Malta) 15/15
Armando Aruci (SP Pennarossa, San Marino) 11/11
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