Lionel Messi vs Kylian Mbappe in the race for the Golden Boot: World Cup top goalscorers history


Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe go head-to-head at the Lusail Stadium today, with both the 2022 World Cup and Golden Boot up for grabs.

Both men have scored five goals at the tournament in Qatar. Mbappe has a better goal per game ratio — at one every 95.4 minutes compared to Messi’s 114 — but Messi is currently leading the race because he has registered one more assist (3).

Whoever comes out on top will join an illustrious list of players, which includes Brazil’s Ronaldo and Germany’s Gerd Muller, which is etched into the memory of many a football fan.

But the list of players to have won the Golden Boot also includes some lesser-known players, from countries including Poland and Czechoslovakia, with some midfielders thrown in for good measure, too. 

Ahead of today’s World Cup final, we take a look at the historical winners of the award here, preceded first by a quick explanation of how it’s given.



Messi leads Golden Boot race ahead of Mbappe and Giroud

What is the history of the Golden Boot?

The award for the World Cup’s top goalscorer was first given out in 1982, under the name Golden Shoe. It was renamed Golden Boot in 2010.

FIFA has since retroactively applied the title of top goalscorer to the tournaments that took place prior to 1982.

When is the award presented?

The Golden Boot, along with FIFA’s other awards at the tournament, is given out directly after the final.

Frequently, the Golden Boot recipient is not on a team that has reached the final, and is therefore not present to pick up his award.

The last time the winner played in the final was 2002, as Ronaldo won the award after Brazil defeated Germany in the final.

Ronaldo won the Golden Boot in 2002 (Photo: Getty Images)

Ronaldo won the Golden Boot in 2002 (Photo: Getty Images)

What happens if players are tied on goals?

If two or more players are tied atop the list of the tournament’s goalscorers, the first tiebreaker will be which player recorded more assists, as determined by a FIFA committee referred to as the Technical Study Group.

If players are still tied after taking assists into account, the total minutes each played in the tournament will be used as the tiebreaker, with the footballer who played fewer minutes ranked first.

Players ranking second and third are awarded the Silver Boot and the Bronze Boot, respectively.

Who will win the award in 2022?

Messi and Mbappe have both scored five goals.

Julian Alvarez and Olivier Giroud are both in contention, too. They have scored four goals, respectively. But neither Alvarez or Giroud has yet registered an assist, so they would need to score at least two goals to overthrow Messi and Mbappe.

Who won the award in…

2018: Harry Kane (England) — Six goals

Kane established an insurmountable lead early in the tournament, scoring five goals in England’s first two group games, including a hat-trick against Panama. He added a sixth from the penalty spot in England’s quarter-final victory over Colombia.

His closest competitors finished with four goals each; five different players closed the tournament at that number. It wasn’t total dominance by Kane though, as three of his goals came from the spot and another came from a deflection he knew nothing about.

Harry Kane with the 2018 Golden Boot (Photo: Getty Images)

Harry Kane with the 2018 Golden Boot (Photo: Getty Images)



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2014: James Rodriguez (Colombia) — Six goals

Rodriguez was in the form of his life at the 2014 World Cup. He scored in each of Colombia’s five games during their run to the quarter-finals.

Against Uruguay in the round of 16, he scored not just the goal of the tournament, but the 2014 Puskas Award winner for the goal of the year in world football. In the 28th minute, he controlled a pass from a teammate with his chest before volleying from well outside the box, with the ball going in off the underside of the crossbar.

Rodriguez’s electric form at the World Cup led to a move from Monaco to Real Madrid for a reported £63million later that summer. He remains the only outright winner of the top goalscorer award from a South American country outside of Brazil and Argentina.

2010: Thomas Muller (Germany) — Five goals

Just 20 years old at the time, Muller entered the World Cup without a single international goal to his name. He had only made his debut for Germany in March of that year.

He wasted no time in finding the back of the net, opening his account in Germany’s first game against Australia. He added two more goals in a controversial round-of-16 win over England, and another against Argentina in the quarter-final. His fifth goal came in the third-place play-off, earning him a small consolation for the heartbreak suffered in losing the semi-final.

Muller remains the only player to win the award via tiebreaker, as assists and minutes played were not in use yet as decisive criteria the last time a tie occurred in 1994. Muller’s five goals were equalled by David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan, as each of the tournament’s four semi-finalists had a representative atop the goalscoring chart.

Muller was the second German in a row to win the award…

2006: Miroslav Klose (Germany) — Five goals

Klose holds the all-time World Cup scoring record with 16 goals scored across four tournaments between 2002 and 2014.

Klose scoring against Ecuador in 2006 (Photo: Getty Images)

He was in fine form playing in his home country in 2006, scoring twice against Costa Rica in the tournament’s opening match in Munich, before adding another two group-stage goals against Ecuador in Berlin.

Klose was crucial to Germany’s quarter-final win over Argentina in Berlin, scoring an 80th-minute equaliser for his side before they progressed on penalties. He couldn’t find the back of the net in the semi-final in Dortmund though, as Germany conceded two goals in the dying minutes of extra time to lose to Italy 2-0.

2002: Ronaldo (Brazil) — Eight goals

Before Klose took the all-time scoring record, it belonged to this man. Ronaldo racked up 15 goals playing in just three tournaments, with more than half of them coming in 2002.

Ronaldo was simply dominant in this tournament. He scored in six of Brazil’s seven matches, only failing to get on the score sheet against England in the quarter-final.

He made the difference in the final, scoring both of his team’s goals as they triumphed 2-0 over Germany. It was redemption for Brazil after losing to France in the previous tournament’s final, and specifically for Ronaldo, who suffered a much-discussed but little-understood medical problem the morning of that final.



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1998: Davor Suker (Croatia) — Six goals

France 1998 was a remarkable tournament for Croatia. Playing in their first World Cup as an independent nation, they reached a remarkable third place, better than their predecessor Yugoslavia had ever done.

Real Madrid forward Davor Suker led the way, scoring in six of Croatia’s seven matches, including in a famous 3-0 win over Germany in the quarter-final. He clinched the Golden Boot with the decisive goal in Croatia’s third place play-off victory over the Netherlands.

This was the sixth tournament in a row that the top scorer(s) finished with six goals.

1994: Oleg Salenko (Russia) and Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) — Six goals

These two players took remarkably different paths to scoring a tournament-high six goals. Salenko scored all six of his goals in the group stage, including a World Cup-record five against Cameroon. They were the only goals he ever scored for Russia. Unfortunately for his side, Salenko is the only recipient of the Golden Boot whose team was eliminated in the group stage.

Prior to 1994, Bulgaria had never won a game at the World Cup. The same can be said of them since 1994. But at that tournament in the United States, they were nearly untouchable. Bulgaria beat previous champions Argentina in the group stage and Germany in the quarter-final, with Stoichkov scoring in both matches. They finished in fourth place and have since returned to the World Cup only once.

The use of tiebreakers to determine an outright winner of the Golden Boot began after this tournament.

1990: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) — Six goals

Schillaci had just one career cap for Italy when he came on as a second-half substitute in their opening game against Austria in Rome, but it took him just three minutes to score the winning goal.

Salvatore Schillaci won on home soil in 1990 (Photo: Getty Images)

Salvatore Schillaci won on home soil in 1990 (Photo: Getty Images)

The Juventus striker scored once more in the group stage and then in each of Italy’s four knockout matches, including their lone goal in their semi-final loss on penalties to Diego Maradona’s Argentina in Naples.

Schillaci claimed his award with his final goal against England from the penalty spot, lifting the hosts to a 2-1 victory in the third place play-off.

1986: Gary Lineker (England) — Six goals

Going into the final game of the group stage in 1986, England sat in last place after losing to Portugal and drawing with Morocco. Needing a result against Poland, up stepped Gary Lineker, who scored a hat-trick in the first 34 minutes to ensure England advanced.

Lineker bagged a double against Paraguay in the round of 16 before England met eventual champions Argentina in the quarter-final, just four years after the Falklands War. In this (in)famous match at the Estadio Azteca, Diego Maradona scored both the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the ‘Goal of the Century’ before Lineker pulled back a late consolation for England in their 2-1 loss.

Finishing the tournament as top scorer helped Lineker secure a £2.8million move from Everton to Barcelona later that summer.

1982: Paolo Rossi (Italy) — Six goals

Few players have carried their team to a world championship like Rossi did in 1982. He may not have scored in Italy’s first four matches, but from there on he took over the tournament.

In the final game of the second group stage, Rossi scored all of Italy’s goals in their 3-2 victory over Brazil, a game which has gone down as one of the greatest in the history of the sport. The Juventus striker followed that performance with a pair of goals in a 2-0 semi-final win over Poland, before opening the scoring in Italy’s 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.

1978: Mario Kempes (Argentina) — Six goals

Argentina manager Cesar Luis Menotti had decided that 17-year-old Diego Maradona was too young to handle the World Cup, so the No 10 kit was worn by Kempes in 1978. Similar to the path Rossi would take four years later, he started the tournament slowly but eventually played a massive role in helping his team to the title.

After failing to score in the first group stage, Kempes scored twice against both Poland and Peru in the second round, the latter in a 6-0 win that helped Argentina advance to the final instead of Brazil thanks to goal difference.

In the final in Buenos Aires, he scored his team’s first two goals against the Netherlands, including the decisive go-ahead tally in the 105th minute. Argentina’s victory helped lift the spirits of a nation suffering under a brutal dictatorship.

1974: Grzegorz Lato (Poland) — Seven goals

Poland were playing in their first World Cup since 1938, and Lato’s seven goals were a big part of how they managed an impressive third place finish. The winger scored four goals in the first group stage, including a pair against Argentina in Poland’s 3-2 victory over the South American side.

Lato kept at it in the second group stage, scoring decisive goals in wins over Sweden and Yugoslavia. Poland would finally see their run end in a de facto semi-final against eventual champions West Germany, but Lato bagged one final goal, scoring the lone goal in his side’s victory over Brazil in the third place play-off.

1970: Gerd Muller (West Germany) — 10 goals

Muller was on red-hot form throughout the 1970 tournament. He scored in each of West Germany’s three group-stage games, including back-to-back hat-tricks against Bulgaria and Peru — a feat that has not been repeated since.

Gerd Muller scored ten goals at the 1970 World Cup (Photo: Getty Images)

Gerd Muller scored ten goals at the 1970 World Cup (Photo: Getty Images)

The legendary Bayern Munich striker didn’t slow down in the knockout stages, scoring the extra-time winner against England in the quarter-final. In the semi-final at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, a seven-goal thriller that has been dubbed the ‘Game of the Century’, he scored twice in extra-time but couldn’t prevent his side from falling 4-3 to Italy.

Muller remains the only man to be the outright top goalscorer at a World Cup and at a Euros.

1966: Eusebio (Portugal) — Nine goals

Portugal have never finished higher than the third place they took in 1966, and this legend was the driving force behind that achievement.

Just three of his nine goals came in the group stage, though he did bag a pair in Portugal’s 3-1 win over Brazil, a result which eliminated the two-time defending champions.

The match in which Eusebio really made his mark was an extraordinary quarter-final at Goodison Park, against North Korea of all teams. Portugal fell behind 3-0 in the first half hour, before storming back with five straight goals. Eusebio scored the first four of those five, making him responsible for six straight goals for his side over parts of two matches. The Benfica striker then scored Portugal’s lone goal in their loss to eventual champions England in the semi-final, as well as another in their third place play-off against the Soviet Union.

1962: Six players — Four goals

The 1962 tournament remains the only edition of the World Cup in which no player reached a total of five goals. Given the Golden Boot wasn’t actually being given out at this stage, tiebreakers were not in effect, leaving us with a whopping six-way tie for the tournament’s top scorer.

The honorees are: Brazil’s Garrincha and Vava, Hungary’s Florian Albert, the Soviet Union’s Valentin Ivanov, Yugoslavia’s Drazan Jerkovic, and Chile’s Leonel Sanchez. All five of these nations were among the last eight in the tournament, with three of them – Brazil, Chile, and Yugoslavia – semi-finalists.

Vava and Garrincha led Brazil to a second straight title, a feat which has not been repeated to this day. Both players scored two goals in their semi-final win over Chile, and Vava scored the capper in their 3-1 win over Czechoslovakia in the final.

1958: Just Fontaine (France) — 13 goals

Despite their accomplished history, France have only had the World Cup’s top goalscorer once. But what a one it was.

Fontaine’s tally of 13 goals at the 1958 tournament still stands as the record for most goals at a single edition. He more than doubled the output of the next-highest scorer, scoring in all six of his side’s matches.

Fontaine bagged six goals in the group stage, including a hat-trick against Paraguay in the opening match, before adding another two in the quarter-final against Northern Ireland. He could only manage one goal in France’s semi-final loss to eventual champions Brazil, but capped his tournament off with an incredible four-goal performance in France’s 6-3 win over West Germany in the third place play-off.

1954: Sandor Kocsis (Hungary) — 11 goals

Hungary’s golden generation, the Mighty Magyars, are perhaps the greatest side never to win the World Cup. Between 1950 and 1956, the team played 69 games, recording 58 victories, 10 draws and just one defeat. Unfortunately for them, that one loss came in the 1954 World Cup final.

Hungary began the tournament flying high, as Kocsis scored a hat-trick in a 9-0 romp over South Korea before bagging four goals in an 8-3 dismantling of West Germany. The striker scored another two against Brazil in the quarter-final, a match that became known as the Battle of Bern due to its three red cards and numerous violent fights. With star team-mate Ferenc Puskas missing due to injury, Kocsis scored another crucial pair of goals in extra-time of a semi-final win over defending champions Uruguay.

The Hungarian dream would come to a stunning halt in the final though, as West Germany made up for their earlier defeat to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. Kocsis was held off the scoresheet as the Germans came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in another match deemed worthy of a moniker, this time the Miracle of Bern.

1950: Ademir (Brazil) — Nine goals

Ademir made it two straight Golden Boots for Brazil in 1950, though it had been 12 years since the last tournament due to the Second World War. He scored three goals during the first group stage as his team advanced to a decisive final group stage.

The Brazilian forward was electric in the first two matches of the final group, scoring four against Sweden and another two against Spain. With Brazil and Uruguay secure in the top two spots heading into their finale against one another, the match became a de facto final.

Brazil only needed a draw to be crowned champions, and with the match being played at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, they were heavy favourites. The hosts would lead 1-0 with a half hour remaining, but Uruguay pulled off a stunning comeback to win 2-1 and break Brazilian hearts. Ademir was unable to get on the score sheet in the match, which is still viewed as a national travesty.

1938: Leonidas (Brazil) — Seven goals

A legend of early international football, Leonidas is one of the players credited with possibly inventing the bicycle kick. He made his mark at the 1938 World Cup, becoming the first Brazilian to earn the honour of the tournament’s top goalscorer.

He began with a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Poland, including two crucial goals in extra time. Brazil then faced Czechoslovakia in the quarter-final – twice. Leonidas scored in the first match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Similar to 1954’s Battle of Bern, this game also saw three red cards and earned the nickname the Battle of Bordeaux. Leonidas scored again in the replay, this time getting the support of a team-mates goal as Brazil would win 2-1 and advance.

The Flamengo forward controversially did not play in the semi-final, which Brazil lost to eventual champions Italy. Many assumed the team had arrogantly rested him with an eye on the final, but injuries may have been the true cause, with the match taking place just two days after the quarter-final replay. Leonidas returned to score two more goals against Sweden in the third place play-off, securing the rank of top scorer.

1934: Oldrich Nejedly (Czechoslovakia) — Five goals

Only in relatively recent times did Nejedly get the credit for being the top scorer at the 1934 World Cup.

For decades he was credited with only four goals at the tournament, leaving him tied with two other players for the distinction. However, in 2006, FIFA revised its records to reflect that Nejedly scored a hat-trick in Czechoslovakia’s semi-final win over Germany, moving him atop the goalscoring list with five. Nejedly was unable to score in the final as the Czechs lost in extra time to hosts Italy.

1930: Guillermo Stabile (Argentina) — Eight goals

Stabile didn’t play in Argentina’s opening match against France, but made up for lost time in a hurry. Making his national team debut in the next match against Mexico, Stabile scored a hat-trick that was recognized as the first in World Cup history for decades, until another FIFA revision in 2006 gave that distinction to American Bert Patenaude for a game two days earlier.

The 25-year-old then scored a pair of goals against Chile and another pair in the semi-final against the United States. In the inaugural World Cup final, Stabile scored his eighth goal of the tournament to give Argentina a 2-1 lead over hosts Uruguay, before the home side stormed back in the second half to win 4-2.

Remarkably, the four caps Stabile earned at the 1930 World Cup were the only appearances he ever made for Argentina. However, as a manager of the national team, he later led the Albiceleste to an incredible six continental titles.

(Photo: Getty Images)


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