With the World Cup now just around the corner, anticipation is at fever pitch among football fans despite concerns remaining about Qatar’s suitability as the host nation for the competition.
While Brazil seem set to kick off as the favourites to lift the Jules Rimet trophy just before Christmas, the race for the Golden Boot seems to be wide open at this stage. Guillermo Stabile was the top goalscorer at the inaugural World Cup in 1930, with Just Fontaine Eusebio, Gerd Muller and Ronaldo among the greats of the game to claim the Golden Boot.
Who are the top contenders to win the award at Qatar 2022? Here are six names in the frame.
Harry Kane – England
England captain Kane is aiming to become the first player ever to retain the Golden Boot. Kane struck six goals in England’s run to the semi-finals four years ago, but Gareth Southgate’s side have lost form in 2022 with the Three Lions perhaps unlikely to repeat that deep run.
Talisman Kane remains their best chance of ending that long wait for glory, though, with the Spurs striker heading to Qatar in fine form after a sensational start to the league season.
Half of Kane’s goals four years ago came against minnows Panama, but England’s opener against Iran could provide another opportunity for the striker to claim a match ball here.
Kylian Mbappe – France
Holders France have a couple of strong options as contenders to win the Golden Boot at the World Cup, but Mbappe looks to have a better chance than strike partner Karim Benzema.
Mbappe announced himself on the world stage in Russia with a series of precocious performances, with the forward also heading to Qatar on the back of strong showings. The 23-year-old has already reached double figures in Ligue 1 and if France are to have a chance of claiming glory again then Mbappe is certainly central to their title hopes.
Lionel Messi – Argentina
Mbappe’s Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Messi took the Golden Ball home from Russia 2018, but perhaps it will be the Golden Boot that has the veteran’s name on it this year. Messi broke his long wait for international success at the Copa America and, travelling to the World Cup for the last time in his glittering career, will be looking to bow out on a high note with Argentina.
Messi’s domestic and international form have both been high during 2022. In the last international break, he hit four goals against Jamaica and Honduras, though his opponents at the World Cup will surely represent a step up in class on those two teams.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Messi’s great rival Ronaldo is also featuring at the World Cup for the last time, but 2022 has been a difficult year for the Portugal veteran both on and off the pitch.
Now treated as backup at Manchester United, form has been elusive for the 37-year-old. Ronaldo has scored a solitary Premier League goal from 10 appearances in 2022-23.
Few can match Ronaldo’s international pedigree, though, with the striker’s 117 goals for his country surely set to grow further over the course of the next month.
Neymar – Brazil
The third member of PSG’s all-star attack who could have a shot at the World Cup, Neymar has matched Mbappe’s haul of Ligue 1 goals and is also set to star for one of the tournament’s elite.
Brazil are the favourites as they look to win the World Cup for what would be a sixth time, with Neymar shouldering the burden of expectation for his side. Brazil have a solid squad that perhaps lacks a little stardust but, at 30, Neymar might finally be ready to dazzle on this stage.
Memphis Depay – Netherlands
Netherlands are being touted as possible dark horses for the crown and Depay is their likeliest goalscorer, though the 28-year-old may be rusty due to a lack of action for Barcelona.
Depay’s international record has been excellent of late, however. He found the net 12 times during the qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022 and hit a further three goals in four Nations League appearances earlier in the year.
Netherlands might only have an outside shot at the title, but Depay has a lot to prove