The final stretch of the season is nearly upon us and will signal the biggest names in the game fighting it out for the right to be crowned the winner of the European Golden Shoe.
It was Lazio forward Ciro Immobile who claimed the accolade last season after scoring a stunning 36 goals last term in Serie A.
However, the Italy international currently finds himself 31st in the list for the current campaign, with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski leading the way, and by some distance too.
Italy striker Ciro Immobile won last season’s Golden Shoe with 36 Serie A goals for Lazio
The usual suspects make up those immediately behind the Polish marksman, but there are a couple of players that could raise eyebrows given their lofty status in the list.
The competition is not judged based on number of goals alone, with three tiers of leagues in the competition included. The top tier earn two points per goal, those in the middle tier one and a half, and those in the bottom tier one.
The top five leagues in Europe are members of the top tier; the leagues from six to 21 are in the middle tier; and the rest in the bottom tier, with rankings decided by UEFA coefficient.
With that in mind, Sportsmail examines the top 10 in the list and assesses their chances of being named the king of goalscoring in Europe for 2020/21.
Robert Lewandowski currently leads the way with 35 goals, but is now out injured for a month+
1) Robert Lewandowski – 35 goals (70 points)
The striker currently in the driving seat to claim his first Golden Boot award, a surprising statistic given the regularity with which he scores at least 30 goals in a season.
The Bayern Munich striker has found the net on 42 occasions across all competitions for the Bundesliga and European champions in 2020/21, with 35 of those strikes coming in the German league to give him a points score of 70.
He therefore is closing on Gerd Muller’s Bundesliga record of 40 goals in the 1971/72 season, with Bayern having eight games remaining this season and Lewandowski needing six more goals to break the record.
However, the 32-year-old suffered a major setback this week after being ruled out for four weeks after suffering knee ligament damage while on international duty with Poland.
The Polish striker has suffered a major setback after suffering an injury with his national side
He is set to miss the Champions League quarter-final against PSG on 13 April and if he does not return before the end of next month then he will have just three Bundesliga matches – against Borussia Moenchengladbach, Freiburg and Augsburg respectively – to try and beat Muller’s record.
Working in his favour, however, in this race is the 12-goal lead he holds over his closest competitor, and even if he misses out on beating Muller’s record then it will take some relentless goalscoring from the chasing pack to stop him from seizing this particular European crown.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 8/10
2=) Cristiano Ronaldo – 23 goals (46 points)
Further negative headlines have followed the Portugal international round on international duty after he tossed away the captain’s armband in a meltdown against Serbia.
The 36-year-old would no doubt have hoped for an uneventful break away with his national team after a tirade of criticism in his direction at club level, with Juventus dumped out of the Champions League and 10 points off the pace in Serie A.
But despite his detractors believing he should leave Andrea Pirlo’s side in the summer, the forward has – in rather un-Ronaldo fashion – quietly gone about his business.
A period away due to Covid-19 has not prevented him from scoring 23 goals in 24 appearances this season, which began by netting eight Serie A strikes in his first five games of the Italian league season.
Cristiano Ronaldo sits some 12 goals behind Lewandowski after a mixed season with Juventus
That was unlike last season, where he started slowly before building momentum and finishing just five goals behind Immobile.
He will hope to clinch the award which has not had his name on it since 2014/15, but a 12-goal deficit is a lot to make up, with the pressure on the current champions to ensure they do not fall out of the top four.
Ronaldo has failed to deliver the most-coveted collective trophy, but his aura and personality could see him launch a late surge to pip Lewandowski to the finish.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 6/10
2=) Lionel Messi – 23 goals (46 points)
Much like his Barcelona side, Lionel Messi started the season slowly, including a rut of five LaLiga games without scoring.
But the improvement of his goalscoring form in recent weeks – with 12 goals in his last nine Spanish league fixtures – has seen the Catalan giants up to second in LaLiga, with hopes of a third title in four years now very much alive.
The Argentine is currently locked on the same number of goals as his most distinguished rival over the last decade, Ronaldo, with the duo having played the same number of games.
Messi failed to win the Golden Boot between 2013 and 2016, and now looks unlikely to top Polish striker Lewandowski to the award.
But much like Ronaldo, his history of scoring more than 40 goals in a season in his pomp means the 33-year-old can never be ruled out of such a tussle.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 6/10
Lionel Messi could be in for a late push after helping Barcelona recover in recent weeks
4) Erling Haaland – 21 goals (42 points)
The central striker that seemingly has every major European club desperate to add him to their ranks, the Norwegian’s stock has continued to rise with 21 goals for Borussia Dortmund this season.
Manchester City are the forefront of clubs looking to the 20-year-old to replace Sergio Aguero, and the bullish and ruthless nature with which he has gone about his goalscoring exploits have propelled him to the top of many clubs’ wishlist.
Haaland came sixth in last season’s rankings with 29 goals in 50 appearances altogether at RB Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund.
Erling Haaland is being eyed by several major sides with 21 goals for Borussia Dortmund
But the pressure is on the Bundesliga side to make next season’s Champions League and with a 14-goal deficit to Lewandowski and RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen to face in two of their last three games, Haaland may well fall short. Much will depend on how well the Pole recovers from injury.
Regardless of where he finishes in comparison to Ronaldo and Messi, there will be no doubt of his goalscoring ability as speculation about his future intensifies.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 5/10
5) Andre Silva – 21 goals (42 points)
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Portuguese forward has been linked with Manchester United and Barcelona in recent weeks as a result of netting 21 goals in 24 Bundesliga games.
The 25-year-old struggled to reach such heights with AC Milan and Sevilla, scoring just two league goals in 25 appearances for the Serie A side before a move to LaLiga saw him net nine in 27.
However, after losing the likes of Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller in recent seasons, Silva has stepped up to the plate this term to ensure the German side are currently sat in the last available Champions League spot, four points ahead of Borussia Dortmund.
Silva scored 16 goals in all competitions last season, and while he has already surpassed that with 22 in 26 appearances this term following a permanent move to Germany in September, a Golden Shoe challenge may just be beyond him.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 5/10
Andre Silva is the surprise package having scored 21 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany
6) Kasper Juncker – 27 goals (40.5 points)
Not a name many football fans will have heard of, Junker was an unlikely contender in the race for the Golden Shoe, having banged in 27 goals for Bodo/Glimt in the Norwegian league.
Plying his trade in Norway had meant that he faced an uphill task to win this award anyway, with his goals only worth 1.5 points compared with the 2 points each goal is worth for Lewandowski and the other top contenders.
He is, however, now completely out of the running, with the Norwegian season already over. He also made a shock move to Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds on April 1 – and no, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. Celtic were reportedly also interested in the 27-year-old Dane.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 0/10
Kasper Junker enjoyed a fine season for Bodo/Glimt but he will not win the Golden Shoe
7) Kylian Mbappe – 20 goals (40 points)
Apart from the early part of the season where he was ruled out through coronavirus, Mbappe has been firing goals in at a consistent rate for PSG.
The 22-year-old World Cup winner has scored five Ligue 1 braces this season, taking the lead role with fellow star Neymar missing plenty of action through injuries throughout the term.
His tally of 20 goals from 25 appearances has proved critical in PSG’s battle to hold off the challenge of Lille and Lyon in their quest to defend their French title crown.
Mbappe did not even make it into the top 15 last season for the Golden Shoe, but a strong finish this time around in front of goal should see him and Mauricio Pochettino’s men make a success of the season.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 5/10
Kylian Mbappe tally of 20 goals has proved critical in PSG’s battle to retain their Ligue 1 title
8) Luis Suarez – 19 goals (38 points)
Atletico Madrid appeared to be running away with the LaLiga title in the first half of the season, and a large part of that was due to the 34-year-old Uruguayan, who has scored 19 goals in 25 league games.
He started as he meant to go on after joining the club from Barcelona in the summer, with a brace against Granada in his first league game for his new side.
A run in January also saw him net two goals in three of the four games he played over a two-and-a-half-week period in late January and early February.
His goalscoring form, however, in LaLiga has dropped off in recent weeks, with just three strikes coming in his last eight games, and the gap with Barcelona now just four points.
If he can rediscover his early-season touch, he may yet be able to climb these rankings.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 3/10
Atletico Madrid’s title charge this season has been led by Luis Suarez after joining the club
9) Romelu Lukaku – 19 goals (38 points)
The Belgian forward has certainly rediscovered the magic touch in Serie A which was arguably lost at Manchester United.
The 27-year-old has netted on 19 occasions from 26 games, and reached the 50-goal milestone for the club in January from just 77 games, doing so in seven fewer matches than Brazil legend Ronaldo.
His bullishness was there for all to see with a rampaging run and devastating finish in last month’s Milan derby, and he has now added a consistency in front of goal to all his other physical and technical attributes.
Chelsea and Manchester City have been linked with trying to bring the Belgian back to the Premier League, and should he lead Inter to their first Serie A title since 2010 through his wonderful left boot, he will certainly shoot up this list.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 4/10
Romelu Lukaku reached the 50-goal milestone for the club in January from just 77 games
10) Paul Onuachu – 25 goals (37.5 points)
Another relatively unknown quantity in this list arrives in the form of Genk’s Nigerian forward Paul Onuachu.
The 26-year-old has scored 25 goals for third-place Genk in the Belgian Pro League, but his side are way off the pace of leaders Brugge, who are 20 points ahead.
The former Wigan forward – who stands at 6ft 7in – was linked with Lyon in January, and with his ranking lower due to UEFA’s coefficient system, he may well target a move to a top five league to further his cause.
Chance of winning Golden Shoe: 1/10
Former Wigan forward Paul Onuachu – who stands at 6ft 7 in – is in red-hot form for Genk