Ryan Baldi takes a closer look at the favourites to win the top scorer award.
Antoine Griezmann, the top scorer at Euro 2016, has held on to his crown longer than its previous occupants due to the coronavirus pandemic delaying Euro 2020 by a year.
But with the tournament’s kick-off now just days away, the wealth of attacking talent on show at the European Championship this summer means the Barcelona forward is not among the favourites for the Golden Boot this time around.
Here, we take a look at the five leading contenders to be the tournament’s top marksman.
Harry Kane – England (13/2)
Having provided a league-best 14 assists in 2020-21, Harry Kane’s creative side flourished for Tottenham Hotspur this season.
But the England captain sacrificed none of his scoring prowess, also claiming the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 23 goals. It was the third time the 27-year-old had finished as the English top flight’s highest scorer, adding to the World Cup Golden Boot he claimed thanks to a six-goal haul in 2018.
While speculation over his future will not quieten throughout the tournament, Kane is the consummate professional. His focus will not budge an inch from his aim of leading England to a first major-tournament triumph in 45 years. If this talented Three Lions crop even come close to meeting expectations this summer, Kane will figure highly in the top-scorer race.
Romelu Lukaku – Belgium (13/2)
Romelu Lukaku has had no regrets about leaving Manchester United for Inter Milan in 2019. The Belgian striker has scored 64 goals in 95 games since his move to Italy, and his 24 Serie A goals in 2020-21 helped end Juventus’ decade-long grip on the Scudetto and secure the Nerazzurri’s first title since 2010.
He also provided a career-best 11 assists in the Italian top flight this term, linking up with Argentine attacker Lautaro Martinez to form one of the deadliest strike partnerships in Europe.
At 28, Lukaku is now at the peak of his powers, much like many of his colleagues in Belgium’s “golden generation”. With Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard on creative duty, and in a group alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia, the former Chelsea and Everton forward is expected to fill his boots at Euro 2020, where Roberto Martinez’s side are among the tournament favourites.
Kylian Mbappe – France (10/1)
The last time Paris Saint-Germain failed to win the Ligue 1 title, Kylian Mbappe – then a teenage sensation starring for Monaco – was architect of their downfall. This year, PSG lost their crown to Lille, making 2020-21 the first full senior season of his career in which Mbappe has not won the French championship.
But, on an individual level, the 22-year-old could hardly have done more. With 42 goals in 47 all-competitions games, Mbappe produced the most prolific campaign of his career. Despite still being so young, his pace, inventiveness and ruthless finishing means there is a strong case to be made that he is, at present, the world’s best player.
With so much attacking talent at Didier Deschamps’ disposal this summer, it remains to be seen whether Mbappe will play centrally or, as he did throughout 2018’s World Cup success, out wide. Either way, there will be no more potent attacking force at the tournament than the PSG superstar.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal (13/1)
Cristiano Ronaldo enters the Euros off the back of one of the more disappointing seasons of his career, with Juventus having lost their Serie A supremacy to Lukaku’s Inter, finishing fourth while also crashing out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage. A Coppa Italia triumph offered little consolation.
Yet Ronaldo, at age 36, scored 36 goals in 44 all-competitions games. His haul of 29 strikes in the league was enough to earn him the Capocannoniere award for Serie A’s highest scorer.
As he has aged, his game has gotten simpler. Gone are the mesmerizing skills of his early Manchester United career, likewise the driving counter-attacking runs and blistering cuts inside from the left upon which much of his Real Madrid success was built.
Ronaldo – still an elite athlete in his mid-30s, powerful in the air, lightning over short distances and deadly with either foot – is now a pure goal-scorer, and still arguably the best at what he does. At Euro 2020, he will be the focal point of a talent-rich, creatively gifted Portugal squad intent on repeating their success of five years ago.
Karim Benzema – France (13/1)
Only Lionel Messi scored more La Liga goals in 2020-21 than Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid striker, a veteran of the European game now at 33, once again proved he deserves to be considered among the continent’s finest and most complete centre-forwards, adding nine assists to his 23 league goals.
And his form was such that he has been recalled to the France squad for the first time since 2015. Previously the negativity of his influence around the squad was deemed to outweigh what he could offer on the pitch. Now, Les Bleus manager Deschamps appears either to feel that Benzema is a man reformed or that his skills cannot be overlooked as France bid to repeat their feat of 2000 in adding the European Championship to their World Cup win.
As the outstanding natural striking option within the competition’s most talent-packed squad, Benzema must be considered among the frontrunners for the Golden Boot at Euro 2020.