Though Paco Alcácer’s goal today came when Spain were already down big in their UEFA Nations League match against England, the weight of the scoreline was never going to keep the corners of his mouth from turning upward in delight. Alcácer had stepped over the sideline and into a 3-0 hiding in the 57th minute, and seconds later had scored, just as was expected by everyone who knew about the sun-scorching run of form the Borussia Dortmund striker is currently in. If, like an old Twilight Zone episode, Alcácer has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for an impossible wish of his to come true, then it’s hard to imagine many other denizens of hell have gotten a better return on their investments.
Alcácer’s goal today gives him 10 goals in six matches this season for club and country. As ridiculous as those basic stats sound, the specifics are even crazier. Of those six matches—in which Alcácer has scored at least once every time he’s taken the field—the Spaniard was a starter in just two. He’s scored his 10 goals in 277 minutes of playing time, which means that he’s scoring a little better than a hat trick on a per–90 minute basis. It’s a small sample size, but over a long enough span of time to make it something more than just a lucky couple days at the office.
The most gluttonous day of Alcácer’s goal-gorging spree came a little over a week ago. He came onto the pitch from his typical place on the bench in the 59th minute for Dortmund in a Bundesliga match against Augsburg, and three minutes later scored the equalizing goal to make it 1-1. With about half an hour remaining in the match, and with the result seesawing back and forth, Alcácer wasn’t finished. He scored for a second time to level the match again after Augsburg had retaken the lead, and stood by in elation as teammate Mario Götze put Dortmund ahead for the first time in the 84th minute. Then, after Augsburg struck for a third time to knot the score up yet again, Alcácer delivered his team the win with a free-kick banger at the very end of stoppage time to seal his hat trick. He’d scored three times in 31 minutes, one of those being a last-gasp winner, and in doing so officially consecrated his blistering start to the new season.
It makes sense, then, why Alcácer couldn’t help but grin and celebrate his goal today against England, even if it came while Spain were in the midst of an embarrassing home beatdown. If you’d just scored for the 10th time in six matches, and done so back in the national team shirt you probably had been worried you might not pull on again after what at the time looked like a dream move to Barcelona had turned into a nightmare of playing time and confidence, you too couldn’t have helped but bask in the joy of scoring once again during this hottest of hot streaks, at long last re-experiencing what it feels like to be not only playing but playing amazingly well. If the cost of that happiness and those goals and the promise of a career renewed and improved is an eternity spent amongst fire and brimstone, well, it just might feel like it was worth it on a day like today.