What makes a World Cup Golden Boot winner?

What makes a World Cup Golden Boot winner?

Thomas Muller (left) in 2010, James Rodriguez (centre) in 2014 and Harry Kane (right) in 2018 are the last three Golden Boot winners

The World Cup Golden Boot – it’s the individual prize that goalscorers crave above all else. The chance to engrave your name in football immortality.

The list of winners includes real greats, such as Eusebio, Gerd Muller and Brazilian Ronaldo, and others who seized their moment of glory, including Just Fontaine, Salvatore Schillaci and Oleg Salenko.

BBC Sport has analyzed each of them to see what makes a Golden Boot winner in football’s biggest tournament and whether those qualities help us predict who could win it in Qatar.

From Stabile to Kane

From 1930 to 1978, there was no official title for being the top scorer at a World Cup. That changed for the tournament in Spain in 1982, when it was marked, somewhat incongruously, as the golden boot. It wasn’t until 2010 that they gave the award a new, more appropriate football-themed image.

From Argentinian Guillermo Stabile in Uruguay in 1930 to England’s Harry Kane four years ago in Russia, 27 players have won the award in 21 tournaments…

World Cup Golden Boot winners - Guillermo Stabile (1930);  Oldrich Nejedly (1934);  Leonidas (1938);  Admir (1950);  Sandor Kocsis (1954);  Just Fountain (1958);  Florian Albert, Garrincha, Valentin Ivanov, Drazan Jerkovic, Leonel Sanchez, Vava (all in 1962);  Eusebio (1966);  Gerd Muller (1970);  Grzegorz Lato (1974);  Mario Kempes (1978);  Paolo Rossi (1982);  Gary Lineker (1986);  Salvatore Schillaci (1990);  Oleg Salenko, Hristo Stoichkov (1994);  Davor Sucker (1998);  Ronaldo (2002);  Miroslav Klose (2006);  Thomas Muller (2010);  James Rodriguez (2014);  Harry Kane (2018)

No one has equaled Frenchman Just Fontaine’s number of goals in a single World Cup, and it’s unlikely anyone ever will.

Fontaine scored 13 times in Sweden in 1958. That came from just six games and included a hat-trick in a 7-3 opening win over Paraguay and four in the 6-3 third-place play-off victory against West Germany. Yes, despite their monumental effort that summer, France did not even reach the final.

The fewest goals required to win the Golden Boot is four, which saw six players share the prize in 1962 – the first of only two occasions when the honor has officially gone to more than one player in a only tournament with that shared between The Russian Salenko and the Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov in the United States 1994.

In 2010, four players – Thomas Muller (Germany), David Villa (Spain), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) and Diego Forlan (Uruguay) – all scored five goals, but the boot went to the German striker thanks to his three assists.

This was in line with a rule introduced after the 1994 World Cup, stipulating that players tied for the most goals will be separated by whoever scored the fewest penalties, then the player with the most assists and finally, if necessary, who has played the fewest minutes.

No golden elders

Earning Golden Boots is not an old man’s game. Only one player aged over 30 at the start of the tournament in which he achieved the highest score has ever won the prize, namely the brilliant Davor Suker of Croatia, who was only five months after his 30th birthday when he scored six times at France ’98.

The youngest winner of the Golden Boot is Hungarian Florian Albert, one of six winners in 1962, who was 20 years, eight months and 15 days old when the tournament began in Chile.

Germany’s Thomas Muller was just 14 days older at the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where he scored five times. He will also be in Qatar, aiming to become the first two-time winner of the award.

Harry Kane with his Golden Boot in 2018

Brazil in the lead

As the most successful team in the World Cup with five trophies won, it makes sense that Brazil have the most Golden Boot winners, namely Leonidas (1938), Ademir (1950), Garrincha and Vava (both in 1962) and Ronaldo (2002).

Germany have three wins, while Argentina, England, Hungary, Italy and Russia (both) are the only other nations to have more than one winner.

World Cup Golden Boot winners by nationality - Brazil (5);  Germany (3);  Argentina, England, Hungary, Italy, Russia (both);  Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Portugal, Yugoslavia (all 1)

Brazil is also the country where most Golden Boot winners play for their club football, with four. However, the last of these distinctions dates back to 1962.

It is illustrative of the transfer of money and power in football, as well as the ability and willingness of players to seek new challenges abroad, that the first 15 Golden Boot winners have played football of their club in their country of birth, but six of the 12 winners from 1978 have played abroad.

Where the Golden Boot winners were based - Brazil, Spain (both 4);  Germany, Italy (3 for both);  England, France, Hungary (both);  Argentina, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Yugoslavia (1)

Only four of the winners have done so in a home World Cup. With all due respect to Qatar and their strikers Akram Afif and Almoez Ali, we are unlikely to see a home winner this time around.

experience and form

Experience is a valuable commodity when it comes to earning a Golden Boot.

Not since Stabile has a player won the award having never played for his country. The Italians Schillaci (1990) and Thomas Muller (2010) respectively had one and two selections before announcing themselves on the international scene in the most beautiful way.

The most caps a winner has had before a successful World Cup is Ronaldo, with 57 in 2002.

James Rodriguez

Schillaci, Muller and Salenko had never scored for their countries before setting a high in their respective tournaments.

On average, however, Golden Boot winners have scored 11 times for their country. Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis (1954) and Ronaldo (2002) had the most with 37.

As you’d expect, most of the Golden Boot winners were fit for their club leading to a World Cup. Only three players from 1966 scored less than double for their clubs in the season before the tournament – and of those, Paolo Rossi in 1982 was banned for two years and Ronaldo in 2002 was heavily hit by a wound.

The most goals in a league season before a World Cup is the 38 scored by Bayern Munich and West Germany in the 1969-70 Bundesliga campaign.

18 – the average number of league goals scored by a Golden Boot winner for their club in the season preceding a World Cup

Moreover, only two Golden Boot winners have played for clubs that finished outside the top four in their respective league in the season before the World Cup.

In the tournament itself…

It’s not rocket science that the further a nation advances in the tournament, the more scoring opportunities a player will have.

Only one Golden Boot winner has failed to make it out of the group stage with his team – Salenko with Russia in 1994. He is an anomaly in that five of his six United goals have come in one match.

World Cup Stage Reached by Golden Boot Winner - Winner (5), Runner-up (4), Semi-Final (13), Quarter-Final (4), Last 16 (0), Group Stage ( 1)

Choose a winner…

So, does all this information allow us to make a prediction about the Qatar Golden Boot this winter?

Using the data, we’re looking for a striker who plays for a team that’s likely to reach the quarter-finals, so we’ve narrowed him down to those in the top eight favorites to win the tournament.

They must be 30 or younger, ideally between 24 and 25, and will likely be based in Europe at a top four club in their respective league.

They should have at least 22 caps and 11 goals for their country ahead of the tournament and be in decent goalscoring form for their club.

Here are the players closest to the bill in rough order of most suitable…

Player Country Based Age Caps/goals club pos. Club goals 22/23
lautaro martinez Argentina Italy 25 40/21 5 seven
Kylian Mbappe France France 23 59/28 1 12
Serge Gnabry Germany Germany 27 36/20 1 8
Leroy Sane Germany Germany 26 11/47 1 5
Harry Kane England England 29 75/51 4 12
Neymar Brazil France 30 121/75 1 11
Alvaro Morata Spain Spain 30 57/27 5 5
richarlison Brazil England 25 38/17 4 0
Andre Silva Portugal Germany 27 51/19 15 2
Memphis Depay Netherlands Spain 28 81/42 2 1

Chart of Index and Golden Boot winners provided by Raj Dhunna

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