The FIFA Golden Ball award is the prize given to the tournament’s top scorer, with Colombia’s James Rodriguez the most recent recipient of the award for his efforts at the 2014 finals in Brazil.
It is a major honour that gives a huge boost to player profiles, as it did at the 2014 World Cup where Rodriguez’s prolific form earned him international recognition and a move to Real Madrid.
Ahead of this year’s World Cup, we present three key facts about the Golden Boot award – and how it is different from the Golden Ball – plus names of some potential contenders as well as past recipients of the award.
#1: What is The Golden Boot?
The Golden Boot award is presented to the top scorer at each World Cup finals.
It is not to be confused with the Golden Ball award, which is given to the player who performed the best during the competition, with a shortlist drawn up by the FIFA committee and the finalists voted for by representatives of the media.
Before 2010, the award was named the “Golden Shoe” from 1982 to 2006. Prior to 1982, there was no award for scoring the most goals in the finals of the World Cup – top scorers were just given the title of “Top Goal scorer” with no formal recognition given.
If two players have scored the same number of goals during a World Cup tournament, their rankings are judged first by the number of assists made, and then by how many minutes played (if two goal scorers are tied, the player who played fewer minutes will be ranked higher).
#2: Who Are The Previous Winners?
Rodriguez won the award in 2014 after scoring six goals in the finals held in Brazil, registering a further two assists. The Colombian attacking midfielder had looked bright at Monaco prior to the tournament, but the World Cup and his impressive form definitely raised the attention of some of the biggest clubs in the world – including Real Madrid, who came calling later that summer.
Runners-up for the 2014 award included Thomas Muller, who scored five goals and provided three assists (and was also named as the winner of the Silver Boot award, the honour given to the second-best player of the tournament). Brazil’s Neymar came third in the running for the Golden Boot, scoring four goals and one assist.
In the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa, it was Muller who scooped up the award, scoring five goals despite being just 20 years of age. Runners-up included David Villa and Wesley Sneijder, who also scored five goals, but Muller won the award by virtue of providing the most assists.
Winners of the Golden Shoe (1982-2010) include Miroslav Klose (five goals), Brazil icon Ronaldo (eight), Davor Suker (six), Oleg Salenko and Hristo Stoichkov (six), Salvatore Schillaci (six), Gary Lineker (six) and Paolo Rossi (six).
#3: Who Are This Year’s Golden Boot contenders?
Three of the top scorers in Europe this season – Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah – have been prolific both internationally and for their clubs. Ronaldo is the weakest link out of the trio despite finishing the season with 26 goals, as he has only scored three goals during all the World Cup finals he has participated in.
Messi will have added ammunition to propel Argentina to the greatest heights for one last time, as he is still desperate to win an international honour, and already did his part by netting a hat-trick against Ecuador during qualification to secure his side’s spot in the tournament.
Salah broke goal scoring record after goal scoring record at Liverpool and his contributions will be dependent on how quickly he can return to full fitness for the Pharaohs after an incident during the Champions League final against Real Madrid, that left him with a dislocated shoulder.
England captain Harry Kane is another strong contender for winning the Golden Boot, finishing the season as the second top scorer in the Premier League, just behind Salah. He had 30 goals in all competitions – more than Ronaldo – and is expected to play an instrumental part for the Three Lions.
Poland star striker Robert Lewandowski finished the season with 29 goals, while Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani scored 28 times for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. The Brazilian Jonas scored 34 for Benfica, while Uruguay forward Luis Suarez netted 25 for Barcelona.
The World Cup kicks off on June 14.