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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March 2005, 07:23 GMT
Forlan reigns in Spain
By Simon Austin

Diego Forlan
44 pts Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
42 pts Marek Mintal (Nurnberg)
38 pts Vincenzo Montella (Roma)
36 pts Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona) & Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace)
34 pts Diego Forlan (Villarreal)
33 pts Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord) & Fatih Tekke (Trabzonspor)
  • 2 points, 1.5 or 1 point awarded per goal depending on quality of domestic league
  • Figures correct to 14 March
  • A glance at the contenders for this season's Golden Shoe reveals many of the names you would expect to see competing for the title of Europe's top goalscorer.

    Seasoned hotshot Thierry Henry leads the race with 22 goals, giving him a score of 44 points.

    But the name in sixth place prompts a second look: Diego Forlan.

    Surely not the same Diego Forlan who went 27 games before scoring for Manchester United and was something of a joke figure during his two-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford?

    Well, yes. Forlan is the second-highest scorer in the Spanish league this season and one of the main reasons why his unfashionable club, Villarreal, are fourth in La Liga.

    The 25-year-old Uruguayan puts his transformation down to having had a run of games in the first team and enjoying the backing of his coach, Manuel Pellegrini.

    "Footballers all over the world need to have confidence from the coach," he told BBC Sport.

    "They need to have minutes on the pitch. If you are a substitute and only play for a couple of minutes, it's difficult to settle in.

    "Every coach has his own players. Maybe I was not the player that Sir Alex (Ferguson) liked, which is fair enough. He can choose - that's why he's the manager.

    "But here I am getting a lot of time on the pitch and I know the coach has faith in me."

    Forlan joined United from Argentine side Independiente for 7.5m in January 2002.

    Diego Forlan
    Forlan scored 17 goals for United
    "If you come from a long distance and everything is new and different, you are going to struggle," he said.

    "But I was very happy because I was at a great club with a great manager. I was only 22 and I was learning.

    "Yet the years went past and still I was not getting a chance. I was training well, then come the Saturday or Sunday I wasn't in the team.

    "I would come on and have a chance and score and then I would find myself on the bench.

    "Sometimes I was not even on the bench - I could see I was losing support."

    Forlan says he knew his time was up when Ferguson signed Louis Saha from Fulham last January.

    "I was not surprised they were willing to sell me because I could see things coming.

    "Saha was signed and then I was not getting many minutes on the pitch.

    "You need to play as the career of the football player is short - that's why I wanted to move on.

    "You don't like seeing the games from the outside."

    Despite his testing time at United, Forlan says he still holds the club and its manager in the highest regard.

    "I was on very good terms with Sir Alex, even at the end. He was perfect - a nice person and a great manager.

    "He understood my position and he let me go because he knew it was going to be difficult for me to play.

    "And the fans were great. From the moment I arrived in Manchester they were supportive and I appreciated that.

    Juan Roman Riquelme
    Riquelme is a great player - he can do everything
    Diego Forlan
    "I spoke with everyone in the team - they were nice guys. I had a good relationship with Mikael Silvestre, Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea and Kleberson.

    "I was really happy in England. Maybe the weather was not as I would have liked but I had friends and settled in."

    Forlan is already Villarreal's leading scorer in a season in the top flight of Spanish football, with 17 goals.

    He has been flourishing on the service of Argentine winger Riquelme.

    "Riquelme is a great player, a great talent. He's a great passer and knows how to read and control the game.

    "He can do everything - keep the ball, shoot and score goals. He really is a great player."

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