You don’t have to win the World Cup to lead the event in scoring, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. So far there have been 26 players to win or share the Golden Boot and just six of them played for the tournament winner with no player winning the award twice. Only one player has scored more than six goals in the last 10 World Cups when Ronaldo of Brazil netted eight in 2002. Seven of the past 10 Golden Boot winners scored six goals with the other two netting just five. James Rodriguez of Colombia captured the award at the last tournament with six goals.
The most goals ever in one World Cup was 13, which was achieved by Just Fontaine for France back in 1958. Just two other players have managed to reach double digits. These were Sandor Kocsis of Hungary with 11 in 1954 and Germany’s Gerd Muller with 10 in 1970. The lowest number of goals to win a Golden Boot was just four, when six players tied for the award in 1962. Ironically, some of the world’s best ever scorers have never won a Golden Boot at the World Cup, including Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona. This list deals with the 10 likeliest players to lead the 2018 World Cup in scoring while taking into consideration how far their teams may go in the tournament.
11. Mohamed Salah
Forward Mohamed Salah of Egypt ranks as the long shot on this list simply because of the underdog team he plays for. There’s not really any better scorer in the world at the moment though as the 25-year-old has been on fire for Liverpool this season. Salah had 12 goals in 14 Premier League matches as of December 1, 2017 and had scored 17 times in 21 games in all competitions. He’s definitely acquired the Midas touch somewhere along the line and hasn’t been too shabby with Egypt either. Salah has netted 32 goals in 56 contests with his homeland with five of them coming in 11 outings this year. This is a guy who could realistically score a goal per game to single-handedly lead Egypt into the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup.
10. Alvaro Morata
Although Spain has been well known for their effective style of football over the past decade, the scoring has been pretty spread out since David Villa and Fernando Torres are rarely seen anymore. Their most effective strikers at the moment are the sulking Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata of Chelsea. Costa tried to force a move out of London this summer, but will have to wait until January until he’s allowed to join Atletico Madrid. Morata’s the better scorer of the two and he’s four years younger at the age of 25. He was a proven scorer at Real Madrid and Juventus and has kept it up with Chelsea this year with eight goals in 13 league games and nine in 19 overall. He’s netted 13 in 23 matches with Spain and had 29 goals in 34 contests with the Under-17’s to Under 21’s.
9. Antoine Griezmann
Depending on the formation France uses at the World Cup, forward Antoine Griezmann may have to share his playing time with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Olivier Giroud, Dmitri Payet, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe. But France should start the 26-year-old Griezmann due to his experience and scoring ability. The Atletico Madrid player hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with France with his 19 goals in 49 games, but 13 of them have come in the last 25 appearance and he’s heading into the prime of his career. Griezmann had six goals in his first 16 matches with Atletico this season which gave him 141 goals in 377 club contests as a pro. Griezmann’s a solid scorer and France could make a run at the cup due to the strength and depth of the squad.
8. Romelu Lukaku
Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku started off this season like a house on fire with Manchester United, but he’s cooled off a bit lately. He’s still an accomplished scorer though with a solid track record and 12 goals in 21 appearances with United so far this season. The 24-year-old is fast and powerful and also has 31 goals in 65 appearances for a strong Belgium side. In fact, he’s been on quite a tear with his homeland lately by scoring 20 goals in his last 23 international matches. Despite his relatively young age, Lukaku has already netted 157 goals in 338 club games and his tally for Belgium is the most in the nation’s history. That may not be a surprise to many though considering he made his pro debut as a 16-year-old.
7. Luis Suarez
If he doesn’t get booted out for biting anybody then Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez of Spanish giants Barcelona has a legitimate shot at the Golden Boot. The 30-year-old chomper has a knack for finding the back of the net wherever he plays and is Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer with 49 goals in 95 games. This includes 10 in his last 19 internationals. In total, Suarez is just five goals short of 400 for his career when combining his tallies for both club and country. He hasn’t been at his best in 2017/18 though with just five league goals for Barcelona in 10 games and being held off the score sheet in seven other appearances with the club. Still, if Suarez gets on a roll in Russia he’ll be hard to stop.
6. Robert Lewandowski
Poland has been one of the most improved squads in world football over the past few years and could be a surprise team in the tournament. However, they’ll basically go as far as ace striker and captain Robert Lewandowski will take them. Not only is Lewandowski the all-time top scorer for his country with 51 goals in 91 games, the 29-year-old has also won a Golden Boot in every pro league he’s played in. He was a star in his homeland from 2006 to 2010 and then made a name for himself on the world stage when moving to Borussia Dortmund of the German Bundesliga. He’s now been with Bayern Munich since 2014 and had 309 goals in 499 club games as of Dec. 1, 2017. This included 13 goals in 13 league games this season, 18 in 20 appearances in all competitions and nine goals in six games with Poland. In fact he’s scored 33 times in his last 31 internationals.
5. Harry Kane
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane of England has been on a hot streak for the last three years now. Kane has walked away with the English Premier League’s Golden Boot the past two season’s and could well make it three in a row this campaign. The 24-year-old scored 54 goals in 68 league games over the past two seasons and had 10 more in his first 13 outings this year. Although Kane has 110 goals in his last 157 club matches, he’s scored just 12 times in 23 appearances for England. But on the bright side he’s been on a roll lately with seven goals in six internationals this year. If England does happen to strike oil in Russia next year it’ll likely be because Kane is challenging for the tournament’s Golden Boot.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal managed to win the European Championship over host nation France last year even though top scorer and skipper Cristiano Ronaldo was injured early in the Final. Ronaldo’s next mission will be to try and lead his squad to its first ever World Cup even though the 32-year-old and most of his key teammates are on the wrong side of 30 now. Ronaldo’s starred at Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and now Real Madrid and is an all-time great who leads Portugal in caps with 147 and goals at 79. This includes 24 goals in his last 24 internationals. It’s hard to criticize the guy, but he’s off to a bit of a slow start this year with just two goals in nine league games and 11 in 16 in all club appearances. Ronaldo will be motivated in Russia and a good bet to be Portugal’s top scorer.
3. Neymar Jr.
Brazil may not be the powerhouse they once were, but they’re still one of the top five teams on the planet. Leading the way over the past few years has been 25-year-old forward Neymar Jr. who already has 53 goals in 83 appearances for his homeland, ranking fourth all time for Brazil. He was named to the All-Star squad at the 2014 World Cup which Brazil hosted and also took home the Bronze Boot with four goals. Neymar has already scored a combined 309 goals for club and country and he’s arguably not even in his prime yet. He’s found the back of the net 15 times in 16 games since moving to Paris Saint Germain from Barcelona this summer and will be more than a handful for defenders to deal with next year.
2. Lionel Messi
Scoring sensation Lionel Messi has won everything possible with his club team Barcelona, but hasn’t been as successful with Argentina. He came close in Brazil in 2014, but he and his teammates were edged 1-0 in the World Cup Final by Germany. Argentina’s struggled a bit since then, but the slate will be wiped clean once the tournament kicks off next summer. Messi will be expected to lead his team once again since he’s Argentina’s all-time top scorer with 61 goals in 123 games. He’s off to his usual fast start in Spain this year with 12 goals in 13 league outings and 16 in 20 matches in all competitions. With close to 600 goals for club and country at 30 years old and considering the strength of the Argentine squad, it’s hard to bet against this guy.
1. Thomas Muller
German forward/midfielder Thomas Muller may not be as talented as Ronaldo and Messi, but he always performs his best on the world stage. The 28-year-old Bayern Munich player won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with five goals and three assists. He followed that up with another five goals at the 2014 World Cup and was awarded the Silver Boot as Germany hoisted the World Cup. He also won the Silver Ball as the second-best player in the tournament and was named to the All-Star squad. Oddly enough, Muller’s not really a big scorer with 37 goals in 89 international outings and 179 in 444 club contests, but he’s a timely clutch scorer. Muller has just six goals in his last 21 games with Germany and started this season with two in 16 matches with Bayern Munich, but history has shown he’s able to raise his game to another level at the World Cup.