Midfielders make a difference

Goals win games and it is, principally, a striker's duty to score them. However, the benefit of having prolific players adrift of the frontline has become evermore apparent in recent years. This was certainly the case in title battles across Europe last season.

Ajax were 13 minutes away from recapturing the Dutch Eredivisie crown on goals scored, in no small part due to Wesley Sneijder's 18 strikes, until engine room stalwart Phillip Cocu netted to keep the trophy in PSV Eindhoven's possession. Attacking midfielder Alex top-scored in Turkey to thrust Fenerbahce to Super League glory, Juninho Pernambucano hit double figures for the fourth time in five campaigns to help Lyon make it six French Ligue 1 golds in a row, and Cristiano Ronaldo finished as the leading marksman for English Premier League winners Manchester United, repeating Frank Lampard's feat for 2005/06 champions Chelsea.

This trend has been continued this term, with a crop of non-strikers spearheading their sides' title challenges. With the season at its halfway point, FIFA.com takes a look at the goal-scoring exploits of these players.

Duo keep pressure on Bayern
Bayern Munich spent heavily last summer to replenish their frontline, and both 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ adidas Golden Shoe winner Miroslav Klose and Italian world champion Luca Toni have lived up to expectations in front of goal thus far. However, the pair are currently tied at the front of the 2007/08 Bundesliga scoring charts with a pair of attacking midfielders.

Diego's nine strikes have propelled Werder Bremen level on points with the Bavarian title favourites, while the return of Dutch maestro Rafael van der Vaart, who found the net consistently during his five-year spell with Ajax, has lifted SV Hamburg to within four points of the pace. The duo remain consistent providers of assists, but it is their ability to shoot from long range that has most caught the eye of late.

Hakan Yakan, meanwhile, is the outright leading marksman in the Switzerland. The inventive No10 has been on target 13 times for Young Boys, who remain in contention for the Super League prize.

Gala winners provide the goals
The English Premier League scoring charts may be monopolised by forwards, but it presently topped by a winger. Not that is any great surprise to see Cristiano Ronaldo's name at the summit, given that he finished as the 17-goal, third-highest marksman in the competition last season - and the only non-striker in the top ten. Possessing power, accuracy and an uncanny capacity to swerve the ball, the Portuguese sensation has 13 goals to his name this term, including a number of match-winning efforts that have helped Manchester United keep pace with Arsenal in the battle for honours.

Lionel Messi, who beat Ronaldo to second place behind Kaka at the FIFA World Player Gala 2007, has also been sporting his shooting boots this campaign. Indeed, only two players boast higher tallies than the Argentine wide player in the race for the Pichichi award. Whether or not his supply can inspire Barcelona to La Liga ecstasy remains to be seen, but with leaders Real Madrid benefiting from goals from midfield too, it will be no easy task.

As for Kaka, the most prolific player in the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League, he is the leading marksman for AC Milan, who nonetheless appear to be out of the title picture after a winner from Inter Milan midfielder Esteban Cambiasso condemned them to a 2-1 defeat last time out. Atalanta are also out of the running but Cristiano Doni, an eternal scorer in their black-and-blue jersey, is level with the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year on seven goals. Dundee United's Barry Robson, Gokdeniz Karadeniz of Trabzonspor and Vaslui's Marko Ljubinkovic are also among the leading scorers in Scotland, Turkey and Romania respectively.

While it would take a minor miracle for one of the aforementioned trio to pocket a title-winners' medal in 2008, a number of champions across Europe will be indebted to goals from midfield at the season's end.