Artem Dovbyk may have finished as La Liga’s top scorer, but he’s hardly a household name across Europe. Euro 2024 could change all that.

Artem Dovbyk’s very last shot of the 2023-24 season was one to remember. The striker slotted in a 90th-minute penalty in Girona’s 7-0 victory over Granada on the final day, taking his La Liga tally to 24 goals and earning the Pichichi trophy. It marked the first time that La Liga’s top scorer award had been won by a player outside of Barcelona or Real Madrid in 15 years, since Diego Forlán did so for Atlético Madrid in 2008-09.

Yet Dovbyk’s golden boot achievement wasn’t entirely plain sailing. Heading into the final matchday of the season, the Ukrainian trailed Villarreal’s Alexander Sørloth by two goals in the top-scorer race. However, his penalty, as insignificant as it seemed in a 7-0 win, secured his hat-trick on the night, taking him one above Sørloth in the standings, leaving an anxious wait for Villarreal’s game the following day.

Sørloth was forced off with injury after just 17 minutes of his side’s visit to Osasuna having failed to find the back of the net, sealing Dovbyk’s award. The accolade meant that he became just the second Ukrainian to win a golden boot in one of the big five European leagues, after Andriy Shevchenko for Milan in 2003-04 (also 24 goals).

La Liga top scorers 2023-24

It was also a collective achievement for the Catalonian side. Girona were undoubtedly one of the stories of the season in Spain, exceeding all expectations to impressively clinch third place, with poster boy Dovbyk at the heart of their tremendous form. The Ukrainian led the line imperiously for Michel’s side – helping fire them to European qualification for the very first time in their history.

It has been a seamless transition into Spanish football for Dovbyk, who joined Girona for a modest fee of €7.75million last summer from Ukrainian side SC Dnipro-1, although it wasn’t the 26-year-old’s first foray outside of domestic football in Ukraine. He previously spent two seasons with Danish club FC Midtjylland but struggled to make an impact and soon returned to his homeland.

It was here with Dnipro-1 that Dovbyk was able to revitalise his career. He finished as the Ukrainian Premier League top scorer with 24 goals in 2022-23, catching the eye of the City Football Group, who own Girona. They were seeking a replacement for forward Taty Castellanos and turned to Dovbyk to fill the void of their departing top scorer. It was a decision that has certainly paid dividends.

Dovbyk instantly hit the ground running at Montilivi, scoring just eight minutes into his debut with a towering header to rescue a point at Real Sociedad. It should have read as an ominous warning, with the striker proceeding to wreak havoc upon opposition defences all campaign. He quickly adopted the role as the figurehead of Girona’s prolific attack – an attack that scored a whopping 85 league goals and the most of any club in a single La Liga season outside of Real Madrid or Barcelona since Athletic Club in 1950-51 (88).

The Ukrainian has been a revelation for the Catalonians, recording 24 goals and eight assists in 36 league appearances. In fact, only Harry Kane (44), Kylian Mbappé (34) and Cole Palmer (33) managed more direct goal involvements than Dovbyk (32) in the big five European leagues in 2023-24.

Artem Dovbyk Girona

Dovbyk is the focal point of the side, operating as the lone striker in Michel’s 4-2-3-1 set-up, and the talisman wasted little time in making his mark. He quickly acclimatised to the tempo of the Spanish top flight, proving himself as one of the most clinical frontmen in Europe.

He’s undoubtedly at his most effective in the penalty area. He took 203 touches in the opposition box last season, the third most of any La Liga player behind Real Madrid duo Rodrygo (222) and Vinícius Júnior (221). Overall, a staggering 31% of Dovbyk’s overall touches came in the opponent’s box – the highest percentage of any player in Europe’s big five leagues.

Artem Dovbyk Striker

He is excellent at finding space in the area via perfectly-timed runs and deft movements out of the defender’s eyeline. This enables him to pull away from his marker and provide an option in the box for a teammate, with no player receiving more open-play crosses in La Liga last term than Dovbyk (40). He formed a particularly good understanding with the side’s wingers Sávio and compatriot Viktor Tsygankov, with the trio’s interchanges appearing telepathic at times.

The Girona marksman has displayed a real knack for finding the back of the net. The striker doesn’t overcomplicate things once in the box, always seeking to fire instinctive first-time finishes past goalkeepers before they have a chance to react. And his underlying numbers speak for themselves. He averaged the most expected goals both overall (0.84) and from non-penalty shots (0.62) per 90 in La Liga last season.

Artem Dovbyk Goals

At 6-foot-2, Dovbyk is an almighty presence in the box. Extremely dominant in the air, the Girona man’s beating of opposition defenders has become an all too familiar sight. Indeed, only Sørloth (7) scored more headed goals than him last season (6).

He is one of the most powerful strikers in transition and is the spearhead of Michel’s side’s multi-pronged attacks. Acting as a constant nuisance inside the width of the 18-yard box, Dovbyk added a whole new dimension to Girona’s play – applying the final touch to intricate moves time and again.

The Ukrainian has shown himself to be a real handful for opposition defenders, as he looks to attack each and every delivery that comes soaring into the penalty box. This in turn has seen him score a variety of goals. He ranked inside La Liga’s top 10 for both shots (85) and shots on target (46), while only Harry Kane (30.6) and Erling Haaland (29.3) accumulated a higher xG tally than Dovbyk (24.3) in Europe’s big five leagues.

Yet Dovbyk is so much more than just a goal poacher. He is not afraid to drop deep to collect the ball and bounce it out to another teammate for third-man combinations. Utilising his frame, he can pin central defenders with his back to goal and bring onrushing teammates into play. Deep-lying playmakers Daley Blind and Aleix García then seek to capitalise on this, using Dovbyk as a constant outlet to bypass the opposition press.

The Ukrainian’s presence immediately attracts defenders, which results in them being dragged out of position. The talisman often occupies numerous opponents to create space for his attacking teammates. He is surprisingly nimble for a man of his frame, while equally capable of combining with teammates to exploit space in behind opposition back lines. More than accomplished at making the ball stick, Dovbyk is a great help in dragging his side up the pitch.

The 26-year-old has accrued several impressive records during his short time at Montilivi, with his 24 league strikes seeing him break club stalwart Cristhian Stuani’s record for most goals by a Girona player in a single La Liga campaign (21 in 2017-18).

However, uncertainty lingers over the striker’s future remains in Catalonia. Dovbyk’s goalscoring exploits have not gone unnoticed, with several top European sides reportedly vying for his signature this summer. Entering his prime, the striker is one of the hottest properties on the transfer market and with so many elite clubs seemingly in the mix for a new number nine, Dovbyk will have no shortage of offers.

The striker can also further his credentials in the coming weeks, as he prepares to compete in the European Championship finals. He already has previous experience in major international tournaments, having netted an extra-time winning goal during Ukraine’s last-16 victory over Sweden at Euro 2020.

Dovbyk has since emerged as one of the most well-rounded strikers in the big five leagues and will surely play a vital role for Sergiy Rebrov’s side this summer. The 26-year-old struck a late winner in the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina in March to help seal their place at this summer’s tournament.

Euro 2024 will enable Dovbyk to show his ability as one of the most decisive centre-forwards in European football. The Ukrainian has already established himself from an unknown quantity to one of the most frightening attacking prospects on the continent in little under a year, so who would dare put a cap on where that talent can go next?

He heads into the tournament in form and added to his international tally with goals in Ukraine’s final two warm-up friendlies against Poland and Moldova. What’s more, his nation has received a relatively kind Group E draw alongside Belgium, Romania and Slovakia, which could enable their passage to the latter rounds of the competition, which would act as the ultimate shop window.

He already holds the tag of the Girona’s record signing after his switch from Dnipro-1 last summer, and it would come as little surprise if he was to become their greatest ever sale, too.

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