While being part of a team that lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy will always be the ultimate dream for footballers, the tournament’s individual award for the top scorer brings more great prestige for goalscorers to strive for.
Who will end up being the leading scorer in Russia?
CLUB FORM GOING INTO THE FIFA WORLD CUP
Of all the players going to the World Cup, Lionel Messi led the way at club level with most goals scored in all competitions in the recently completed season. The Argentinean scored one goal more (45) than Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Other notable players who will be in Russia who hot the 40-mark for their clubs include England’s Harry Kane, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani.
Messi has also been prolific in his last few appearances for Argentina with two hat-tricks in his last three international appearances, including one against Ecuador that sealed a place in Russia for the two-time champions.
With all the personal honours that Messi has won in his career, could he add the Golden Boot to that list?
CHANCE OF A TWO-TIME WINNER?
The past two Golden Boot winners will both be in Russia with James Rodriguez embarking on another campaign with Colombia and Thomas Muller turning out in his third FIFA World Cup with defending champions Brazil.
Could one of them go on to become the first ever two-time Golden Boot winner?
It would take quite a turnaround in form for Rodriguez to reclaim the top scorer prize as he only managed 8 goals throughout the season for Bayern Munich. However, going into his successful 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil, he had only managed 10 in the season leading up to it for Monaco. Could it be prolific scoring is brought out of him when it comes to the big stage?
As for Muller, he’s consistently contributed in his two previous tournaments scoring 5 goals in both the 2010 and 2014 tournaments. With the Germans tipped to go far again in Russia, he could have ample opportunities to be the leading scorer again.
As an extra motivation for Muller, he’s six goals behind Miroslav Klose’s all-time record of 16 World Cup goals. If he’s in contention for the Golden Boot in Russia, he’ll be a contender for that prestigious record too.
STARS MAKING THEIR WORLD CUP DEBUT
In six of the last eight tournaments, the Golden Boot winner was making his first ever World Cup tournament appearance (including the previous two winners mentioned above).
If we are to have another tournament debutant lead the scoring charts, there are certainly some heavy hitters that spring to mind which are set to grace the biggest stage for the first time.
Three players that fall into that category are Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Robert Lewandowski. Will one of them keep up the trend shining in their first tournament appearance?
ANOTHER GOLDEN BOOT WINNER FROM LALIGA?
While playing for a nation that could go deep into the tournament would obviously help a player’s chances to win the Golden Boot, a look back in history shows that certain leagues breed more top scorers in the tournament than others.
Since the 1966 tournament in England, La Liga has produced the most Golden Boot winners (4) even though it has never produced a Spanish winner. With both Messi and Ronaldo plying their trade in Spain, could the league increase their tally of top scorers?
Interestingly, the English top flight has only provided the tournament’s top scorer once with Gary Lineker’s win in 1986 (before the Premier League era). If Harry Kane were to win, it would buck a trend of Premier League strikers falling short of expectations at a World Cup.
While winning the Golden Boot rarely goes hand in hand with winning the World Cup (Brazil’s Ronaldo was the only one to win both in the last 32 years), Russia should see a mighty individual battle for who will join the immortal list of tournament top scorers.