History of the Pichichi

At the end of every football season, it is time to tally up and prepare statistics. There are statistics of all kinds: maximum number of points, minimum number of points, number of matches won, points difference between the first and the other teams, best goal difference, most goals scored in the last minutes etc.

However, some of the statistics are special and have a higher relevance for the players. One such statistic is the league’s top scorer: the Pichichi.

The league’s top scorer is defined as the player who has scored the most goals during the season. Traditionally, this award is awarded to players whose position is in the attacking part of the team, i.e. centre forwards or wingers.

In this post we will talk about the history of the Pichichi trophy, where it gets its name from and who are the most prominent winners of the trophy.

Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, Pitxitxi

The Pichichi Trophy is the trophy awarded to the top scorer in the Spanish First Division of the Spanish football league each season. In addition, this term is used to refer colloquially to the top scorer of any particular tournament.

The title is named in honour of former Athletic Club de Bilbao player Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, nicknamed Pichichi (or Pitxitxi) by his brother Raimundo at the age of eleven.

Born in 1892, he began to appear in Athletic Club de Bilbao’s line-ups in 1911, but he did not have the chance to play in a starting line-up until 1913. His first game as a starter was on 17 March 1913, in a match between Athletic and Real Madrid, which ended with a 3-0 result in favour of the Biscayan team.

Pichichi has the honour of being the first Athletic Club player to score a goal in the San Mamés stadium, the cathedral of Spanish football, on the opening day of the brand new stadium in Bilbao, in a match between Athletic and Racing de Irún, which ended in a 2-1 result in favour of the home team.

Pichichi played for Athletic until 1922, when, once his career was in decline, he decided to retire to start his career as a football referee. However, in 1922 he died of typhoid fever.

As a result of Rafael’s goalscoring exploits, a legend grew up around the name of Pichichi, one of those brave and generous heroes who gave everything for his team on and off the football pitch. He also has to his credit another of Athletic Club’s great honours, being the first Athletic Club player to receive a salary for playing football. He was also a member of the first Spanish national team, with which he won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Antwerp.

Today, the player is still recognised as one of the greats in the history of Spanish football. In San Mamés, he has a bust to which, traditionally since 1926, the captain of each team that plays for the first time on this pitch, together with the captain of Athletic Club, makes a floral tribute as a sign of respect.

The Pichichi Trophy

In 1953, the Spanish National Sports Delegation authorised the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to establish an award for the top scorer in the Spanish league. The initiative for the creation of this award came from the sports newspapers Marca and Arriba, the latter of which is now defunct.

The first Pichichi Trophy was awarded to another Athletic Club de Bilbao player, Telmo Zarra, who also holds the record as the player who has won the award most times.

In addition, in the 2002-2003 season and on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th edition of the Pichichi Trophy, as well as the 75th edition of the Spanish football league, Marca decided to award players Telmo Zarra and Quini the Golden Pichichi award, for being the two former players (still alive) with the most goals scored in the Spanish football league.

In the 2005-2006 season, Marca instituted the Zarra Trophy in order to recognise the top Spanish goalscorer in La Liga each season.

Some interesting facts about the Pichichi Trophy:

  1. The first player to win it was Telmo Zarra, player of Athletic Club de Bilbao.
  2. The player who has won the title the most times is Telmo Zarra (six).
  3. With five Pichichi trophies to his credit, the second most successful players are: Alfredo Di Stefano (ARG), Enrique Castro “Quini (ESP), Hugo Sánchez (MEX) and Lionel Messi (ARG).
  4. Lionel Messi, with 50 goals, holds the record as the top scorer in the Spanish football league in a single season (2011-2012).
  5. Hugo Sánchez is the player who has won the Trophy the most consecutive times (four).
  6. Enrique Castro “Quini” and Hugo Sánchez are the only players to have won the trophy playing for two different teams.


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