Eto'o tackles Janko for Golden Boot

Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o has grappled with many hardy foes during his career, but the Cameroonian sharpshooter has probably never found himself in direct opposition with a player like Marc Janko.

The 6ft 5in, 25-year-old plays his club football for Austrian first division leaders Red Bull Salzburg, but rather than a wily centre-back or an indefatigable full-back, Janko is a striker.

He also happens to be Eto'o's nearest rival for the European Golden Boot, the award handed out each year for the top goalscorer in European football. The Austrian has scored an astonishing 35 goals in just 27 league games this season, firing his side to a seven-point lead at the league summit, but he says his focus is on the title, rather than individual honours.

"We are on course for the league title and we therefore simply have to win," he said. "My main aim is helping the club to the title and then I can think about the European golden boot and the Austrian goalscoring record (41)."

My main aim is helping the club to the title and then I can think about the European golden boot and the Austrian goalscoring record,
Red Bull Salzburg striker Marc Janko.

Eto'o has scored 27 times this term, but the weighting system employed by award organisers the European Sport Magazine group (ESM) means that he leads Janko at the top of the continental scoring charts. Players who represent clubs in Europe's top five leagues - England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France - are awarded two points per goal scored, but those who compete in the continent's other leagues are awarded either one or 1.5 points.

Austria's UEFA co-efficient means their goalscorers are awarded 1.5 points, giving Janko a current total of 52.5 points. Eto'o has 54, despite having scored eight fewer goals. Eto'o is also bidding to become the first player in Spain to score over 30 goals in a season since Barcelona predecessor Ronaldo netted 34 times in the 1996-97 campaign, but he, too, professes not to be interested by individual glory.

"I just wish, if God allows, to be able to fight to try to snatch the title from Real Madrid. Whatever comes after will be welcome," he said.

Janko would not be the first European hot-shot to be beaten to the prize by a more illustrious name from a bigger league. The list of recent recipients reads like a Who's Who of world football, with France striker Thierry Henry, Italy's Francesco Totti and Manchester United's Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo all picking up the award in recent years.

Unheralded champions
Looking further back, though, the list takes on an altogether more unfamiliar feel. Georgi Slavkov of Bulgarian side Trakia was honoured for his goalscoring exploits in the 1980-81 season, while names as unheralded as Hector Yazalde, Kees Kist and Sotiris Kaiafas have all scored their way to glory since the award's inception in 1967.

The reason for the Golden Boot's more democratic feel in its earlier incarnation was that all the goals scored in Europe were valued equally. And while it made for some unfamiliar names on the winners' register, it didn't prevent global superstars such as Eusebio, Gerd Muller and Marco van Basten from walking away with the trophy.

All that changed, however, in 1991, following an accusation from Cypriot football officials that one of their players had been overlooked by then-organisers France Football magazine. The magazine stopped handing out the award, naming an 'unofficial' winner between 1992 and 1996, when ESM - of which France Football was then a member - stepped into the breach and introduced the ranking system in a bid to negate conflict.

Ronaldo's victory in 1997 immediately re-established the award's glamour credentials, but the battle between Janko and Eto'o bears testament to the fact that the Golden Boot doesn't always go to Europe's sharpest shooter.