There aren’t many bigger honours in football than winning the World Cup Golden Boot.
While the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have numerous Ballon D’Ors to their name, neither can boast one of the sport’s biggest accolades – being top scorer and truly stamping their authority on a World Cup.
James Rodriguez travelled to Brazil four years ago as a relatively unheralded attacking midfielder – but after scoring six times on Colombia’s run to the quarter-finals, he parachuted himself into World Cup folklore (and landed a move to Real Madrid too).
All the squads have now been named for this World Cup – but who will take home the Golden Boot.
Well, we’ve crunched the numbers – and might have an answer for you…
Having looked at every World Cup Golden Boot winner, from Argentina’s Guillermo Stabile in 1930, to Rodriguez in 2014, we’ve found that the average player to win the Golden Boot is 25.27 years old, 177.22cm tall, weighs 74.17kg, has 30.46 caps and 14.38 goals at international level to their name, and scored 17.71 times for their club the season before.
Having painstakingly trawled through the 736 players heading to Russia, we were able to narrow the field down to one player who ticks all the boxes.
A few were pretty close.
Isco from Spain hit the mark for age, height, weight, caps and goals – but his seven for Real Madrid was too few for the list.
Antoine Griezmann is one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot, but with 53 caps for France, does he have too much international experience?
Mexico’s Hirving Lozano is too young at 22, with Croatia’s Andrej Kramaric’s and Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri falling just short thanks to too few goals for country and club respectively.
There is just one player at the World Cup who matches the average for each of the six categories – Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho.
Coutinho, who moved from Liverpool to Barcelona for £105m in January, will turn 26 years old two days before the tournament starts, just over the Golden Boot average of 25.27.
The Brazilian weighs in just 2kg under the average weight, at 72kg – and at 173cm, measures up just below the average of 177cm.
His international record too is just within the parameters – with 35 caps and 9 goals for the Seleção.
And perhaps most importantly, he’s in good goalscoring touch – netting 15 league goals for both Liverpool and Barca this term, including a hat-trick against Levante in his penultimate match of the season.
Brazilian players have a long association with the Golden Boot – unsurprising for the nation that has won the World Cup five times.
Leonidas picked up the award after seven goals in the 1938 tournament in France, while Ademir’s eight strikes on home soil in 1950 saw the Golden Boot stay in Brazilian hands after the Second World War.
Garrincha and Vava both shared the award (as part of six tied winners) in 1962, while Ronaldo’s eight goals in 2002 helped both Brazil to the trophy, and the legendary striker to the Golden Boot.
With Brazil expected to go far once again in Russia, and with Coutinho increasingly playing an important part of their attack, don’t count against the Barcelona man being right in the mix for the Golden Boot this time around.
If any England player is to win the Golden Boot, it’ll be Harry Kane.
The Tottenham hot-shot scored 41 times last season, and has two Premier League Golden Boots to his name by the age of just 24.
Only one England player has ever picked up the award for being the top scorer at a World Cup – Gary Lineker in 1986.
Given Lineker’s latter career on crisp adverts, and as a TV presenter, it’s easy to forget just how good a striker he was – and the former Leicester, Everton and Barcelona man netted 48 times for his country, including six at Mexico 1986.
Like Kane, Lineker too was a Tottenham favourite, playing for Spurs from 1989 to 1992.
While Lineker is one of the best strikers to ever pull on the Three Lions shirts, there’s some good news for England fans – despite Kane being younger than Lineker was when he won the Golden Boot, his stats are even better.
Kane has more top-flight club matches to his name at this stage of his career than Lineker did at the start of the 1986 World Cup – 153 to 130, and naturally has even more goals, 108 to 78.
However, what’s more impressive is that Kane’s goals have come at a far quicker rate – scoring 0.71 per match, compared to Lineker’s not-too-shabby mark of 0.60.
The Tottenham man, who has been named England captain for the tournament, has more international experience too – with 24 caps and 13 goals to his name, compared to 13 caps and six goals for Lineker. His international goals/game rate of 0.54 also leaves the veteran in the shade.
Lineker enjoyed a stellar 1985/86 season which set him up for Mexico – netting 38 times in all competitions during his one season with Everton.
However, that too is outranked by Kane – the Tottenham phenomenon scored a remarkable 41 times for Spurs in the season just gone, putting him in the top bracket of any striker in the world.
England aren’t amongst the favourites for the tournament this time around, with many predicting the quarter-finals being the limit of the Three Lions’ chances.
Being knocked out in the quarter-final in 1986 didn’t stop Lineker however, who netted a hat-trick against Poland in the group, twice against Paraguay in the second round, and once against Argentina in the quarters.
Indeed – Rodriguez four years ago failed to get beyond the last-eight stage, something that may mean Kane can enjoy individual success, even if the Three Lions bow out before the latter stages.
Of course, England fans will hope he can fire them to glory – though he may have to get past Brazil and Philippe Coutinho to do so.