Ranking Every FIFA World Cup Golden Boot Winner

| November 13, 2021 5:49 am PST

The 21 editions of the FIFA World Cup have produced a myriad of amazing goalscorers. From Guillermo Stábile in 1930 to Harry Kane in 2018, the list of Golden Boot winners is stacked with legendary names.

But who is the greatest Golden Boot winner in the history of the FIFA World Cup?

Is it the Frenchman who scored 13 goals in six games during the 1958 World Cup? Or what about the Hungarian who netted 11 goals in just five appearances in 1954?

If you want to find out, you have come to the right place.

In this piece, I look back at all 21 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winners and rank them based upon a number of factors. I consider goals per game ratios, examine the importance of each goal, assess title-winning moments, and more.

21. Leonel Sánchez – Chile (1962)

  • Goals: 4
  • Games: 6
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.66
  • Knockout Goals: 2
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

It wouldn’t exactly be fair to call Leonel Sánchez the worst FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner of all time. I mean, finishing as the top goalscorer in any World Cup is a remarkable achievement, right?

But with a goals per game ratio of 0.66, the iconic Chilean forward is officially the least prolific Golden Boot winner in World Cup history.

On home soil, Sánchez netted four goals in six games during the 1962 World Cup. His goals helped Chile to a commendable third-place finish that year – the nation’s best-ever World Cup ranking.

20. Miroslav Klose – Germany (2006)

  • Goals: 5
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.71
  • Knockout Goals: 1
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

With 16 goals to his name, Miroslav Klose is the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer. So, it is hardly surprising that he picked up a Golden Boot along the way.

ALL-TIME LEADING GOALSCORERS – FIFA WORLD CUP
Player Team Goals Games
Miroslav Klose Germany 16 24
Ronaldo Brazil 15 19
Gerd Müller West Germany 14 13
Just Fontaine France 13 6
Pelé Brazil 12 14

The German striker featured in four consecutive World Cups between 2002 and 2014, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer in 2006. Notable names such as Thierry Henry, Hernán Crespo, and Zinedine Zidane netted three goals that year, but Klose bagged five.

19. Harry Kane – England (2018)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goal: 1
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Harry Kane is one of six players to have scored six goals over seven games during a single FIFA World Cup. The England captain achieved the feat in 2018, firing his nation to the semi-finals.

Kane scored five goals in his first two appearances in Russia, bagging a brace against Tunisia before netting a hat-trick against Panama. Although he only scored once after that, he still managed to hold on and clinch the Golden Boot.

The Tottenham Hotspur star is well on his way to surpassing Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading scorer. If he continues to shine for Spurs, he could break Alan Shearer’s EPL record, too.

18. Thomas Müller – Germany (2010)

Thomas Müller
  • Goals: 5
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.71
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

At club level, Thomas Müller has won it all. Ten Bundesliga titles, two UEFA Champions League triumphs, countless domestic and international trophies and much more.

But did you know that the Bayern Munich legend also has a World Cup Golden Boot in his silverware cabinet?

Three other players bagged five goals in the 2010 World Cup – Wesley Sneijder, David Villa, and Diego Forlan. However, Müller racked up three assists, while the other top scorers only managed one assist apiece.

When players score the same number of goals in a World Cup, assists are used as a tiebreaker to determine the Golden Boot winner. Thankfully for Müller, he came out on top.

17. James Rodriguez – Colombia (2014)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 5
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.20
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

James Rodriguez scored in all of Colombia’s five matches during 2014 World Cup, including a double against Uruguay in the round of 16. His exploits in Brazil saw him finish the tournament with an eye-catching goals per game ratio of 1.20.

Although James shone throughout the campaign, José Pékerman’s side failed to make it past the quarter-finals. If Colombia had reached the latter stages of the competition, who knows what James could have achieved?

I mean, who could forget his phenomenal volley against Uruguay?

16. Gary Lineker – England (1986)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 5
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.20
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

The 1986 World Cup will always be remembered for Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” moment. However, I’m sure that Gary Lineker will want it be to remembered for a different reason.

Alongside Kane, Lineker is one of only two Englishman to have the World Cup Golden Boot.

Despite featuring in just five matches in Mexico, Lineker managed to chalk up six goals – netting a hat-trick against Poland before bagging a brace against Paraguay.

He even scored in that controversial quarter-final against Argentina, although it’s safe to say that Maradona snatched the headlines.

15. Hristo Stoichkov – Bulgaria (1994)

Hristo Stoichkov
  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Not many Bulgarians can say they have played for Barcelona, but Hristo Stoichkov can. In fact, the enigmatic forward is the only Bulgarian to have won the World Cup Golden Boot.

While playing for the Spanish giant between 1990 and 1995, Stoichkov travelled to the United States in 1994. He ended up scoring in the round of 16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals as Bulgaria registered its best-ever World Cup finish.

Stoichkov even went on to claim the Ballon d’Or later that year. He may not be one of the greatest Ballon d’Or winners of all time, but he is still one of the best FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winners.

14. Davor Šuker – Croatia (1998)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta and Italy’s Christian Vieri both scored five goals during the 1998 World Cup. However, Davor Šuker clinched the Golden Boot in France – bagging six goals in seven games.

The then Real Madrid forward found the back of the net in all but one of his appearances that year, scoring in two of Croatia’s three group games before netting in every knockout round.

Croatia fell to eventual champion France in the semi-finals. Still, Šuker scored against Les Blues before bagging the winning goal in the third-place play-off match against the Netherlands.

Šuker may have scored the same number of goals as the likes of Kane, James, Lineker, and Stoichkov, but his efforts in the knockout phase see him rank higher than many of his Golden Boot counterparts.

13. Salvatore Schillaci – Italy (1990)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Salvatore Schillaci’s international career didn’t last long. The former Juventus and Italy striker only earned 16 caps for Italy between 1990 and 1991, scoring seven goals in the process.

He still managed to get his hands on a World Cup Golden Boot though, netting six goals in seven matches on home soil in 1990.

The Italian squad was stacked with world-class forwards at the time, including stars like Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli, and Roberto Mancini. Still, Schillaci was able to outscore them all.

After finding the back of the net in two of Italy’s three group matches, Schillaci went on to score in every match from the round of 16 to the third-place play-off – earning his nation a 2-1 victory over England in his final appearance.

12. Grzegorz Lato – Poland (1974)

  • Goals: 7
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.00
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Thanks to braces against Argentina and Haiti in the opening two matches, Grzegorz Lato only needed to score three goals in his final five appearances to finish as the 1974 World Cup top scorer.

The legendary Polish striker capped off an outstanding campaign by netting the only goal of the game in Poland’s 1-0 third-place play-off victory over Brazil, helping his country to record its best-ever World Cup finish.

Although Poland missed out on the final in 1974, Lato scored three knockout goals and almost singlehandedly earned his country a memorable third-place finish.

For that reason, he is one of the best FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winners of all time.

11. Oldrich Nejedly – Czechoslovakia (1934)

  • Goals:5
  • Games:: 4
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.25
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Czechoslovakia’s Oldrich Nejedly claimed the second-ever World Cup Golden Boot, finishing the 1934 tournament with a goals per game ratio of 1.25.

After scoring in the round of 16 and the quarter-finals against Romania and Switzerland, respectively, Nejedly secured the Golden Boot with a hat-trick against Germany in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, though, he wasn’t able to prevent a 2-1 final loss to Italy.

It is worth noting that each team in the 1934 World Cup could only play a maximum of four games. With only 16 nations competing in the tournament, Nejedly’s tally of five goals is hugely impressive.

10. Ademir – Brazil (1950)

  • Goals: 8
  • Games: 6
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.33
  • Knockout Goals: 5
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Ademir only featured in one World Cup. Still, the Brazilian forward certainly left his mark on soccer’s most prestigious international competition.

The Vasco da Gama legend finished as the 1950 World Cup top scorer, netting eight goals in six appearances. Along with goals against Yugoslavia and Spain, and a brace against Mexico, Ademir clocked up four goals in a single game against Sweden.

1950 FIFA WORLD CUP – TOP GOALSCORERS
Player Team Goals
Ademir Brazil 8
Óscar Míguez Uruguay 5
Chicho Brazil 4
Telmo Zarra Spain 4
Alcides Ghiggia Uruguay 4
Estanislau Basora Spain 4

The Brazilian finished three goals clear of his nearest challenger – Uruguay’s Óscar Míguez. However, he was unable to stop the Uruguayans from getting their hands on the trophy.

9. Leônidas – Brazil (1938)

  • Goals: 7
  • Games: 5
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.40
  • Knockout Goals: 7
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

With a goals per game ratio of 1.40, Leônidas is undoubtedly one of the most prolific FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winners of all time.

The Brazilian achieved the feat by scoring seven goals in five appearances at the 1938 World Cup in France, notching a hat-trick against Poland and a double against Sweden, as well as two goals in separate games against Czechoslovakia.

Remarkably, Leônidas was an unused substitute in Brazil’s semi-final loss to Italy. If he had played in that match, he would probably find himself even higher up on this list.

8. Eusébio – Portugal (1966)

Eusébio
  • Goals: 9
  • Games: 6
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.50
  • Knockout Goals: 6
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Okay, this is where things start to get ridiculous.

Fresh from picking up the 1965 Ballon d’Or, Eusébio etched his name into soccer folklore the following year – scoring nine goals in six games on his way to claiming the 1966 World Cup Golden Boot.

The Mozambique-born Portugal international scored twice against Brazil before netting four goals against North Korea in the quarter-finals. He also punished Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, and eventual champion England.

Despite falling to the Three Lions in the semi-finals, Eusébio managed to score six goals during the knockout phase. Not many players can say they scored four goals in a World Cup quarter-final, can they?

Considering his status in the sport, you will probably be surprised to learn that Eusébio only featured at one World Cup. Even so, I’m sure you will agree that he made his mark.

7. Gerd Müller – West Germany (1970)

  • Goals: 10
  • Games: 6
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.66
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Gerd Müller finished his career with an outrageous record of 68 goals in 62 international appearances. So, it is no real shock that he is one of the greatest World Cup Golden Boot winners in history.

The Bayern Munich luminary participated in two World Cups – 1970 and 1974. Despite notching four goals and three assists in 1974, he will always be remembered for his exploits in Mexico four years prior.

Müller registered not one, but two hat-tricks in 1970 – netting trebles against Bulgaria and Peru. He also bagged a brace against Italy in the semi-finals, adding to his earlier goals against Morocco and England.

Not only is Müller one of the most prolific Golden Boot winners in FIFA World Cup history, but he is also among the best Bundesliga players of all time.

6. Guillermo Stábile – Argentina (1930)

  • Goals: 8
  • Games: 4
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 2.00
  • Knockout Goals: 3
  • Final Goals: 1
  • World Cup Winner: No

Guillermo Stábile won the very first World Cup Golden Boot all the way back in 1930. To this day, he remains one of only three players to have averaged 2.00+ goals per game in a single edition of the tournament.

After sitting on the bench for Argentina’s opener against France, Stábile scored a hat-trick against Mexico before registering back-to-back braces against Chile and the USA. He also scored in the final, although he couldn’t stop Uruguay from securing the trophy.

Across his entire career, Stábile only clocked up four caps and eight goals for Argentina. Funny enough, they all came during the 1930 World Cup.

5. Sándor Kocsis – Hungary (1954)

Sándor Kocsis
  • Goals: 11
  • Games: 5
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 2.20
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

Boasting a totally ludicrous goals per game ratio of 2.20, Hungary’s Sándor Kocsis is officially the most prolific Golden Boot winner in the history of the FIFA World Cup. But is he the greatest?

The legendary Hungarian produced a series of remarkable performances in 1954, scoring a hat-trick against South Korea in his first appearance before bagging four against Germany in the very next match. He then chalked up two straight doubles against Brazil and Uruguay.

He couldn’t get his side over the line, nevertheless, firing a blank in the 3-2 final defeat to West Germany. Still, his achievements in Switzerland will never be forgotten.

Despite scoring four goals across the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Kocsis flopped in the final. If he had guided his team to glory, he would have ranked higher.

4. Just Fontaine – France (1958)

  • Goals: 13
  • Games: 6
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 2.16
  • Knockout Goals: 7
  • Final Goals: 0
  • World Cup Winner: No

When Just Fontaine kicked off the 1958 World Cup with a hat-trick against Paraguay, he set himself up for a successful campaign. However, nobody could have predicted what happened next.

Following goals against Scotland and Brazil, along with doubles against Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland, Fontaine scored four goals in France’s 6-3 third-place play-off win over Germany – finishing the competition with a whopping 13 goals in six outings.

You probably won’t be shocked to hear that Fontaine holds the record for most goals scored in a single World Cup. Still, that doesn’t make him the greatest World Cup Golden Boot winner of all time.

Roughly 30% of Fontaine’s 1958 World Cup goals were scored in the third-place play-off. Yes, he scored twice in the quarter-finals and once in the semi-finals. But he wasn’t able to go all the way.

3. Mario Kempes – Argentina (1978)

  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goals: 6
  • Final Goals: 2
  • World Cup Winner: Yes

It’s safe to say that 1978 was Argentina’s year. Not only did the Argentines host the World Cup, but they also lifted the trophy. On top of that, Mario Kempes produced one of the greatest Golden Boot-winning campaigns in the history of the tournament.

Believe it or not, Kempes failed to score during the group stage – firing three straight blanks. He finished the tournament in style, however, bagging a brace in three of the last four games.

After netting doubles against Poland and Peru, Kempes scored twice as Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1 in the final.

Kempes gave his side the lead after 38 minutes in the final, but a late Dutch equalizer saw the showpiece go to extra-time. Once again, Kempes put Argentina ahead on 105 minutes before a Daniel Bertoni goal capped off the victory.

2. Paolo Rossi – Italy (1982)

Paolo Rossi
  • Goals: 6
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 0.86
  • Knockout Goals: 6
  • Final Goals: 1
  • World Cup Winner: Yes

Four years after Kempes scored six goals in seven World Cup games, Paolo Rossi replicated the feat in Spain. And just like Kempes, Rossi fired his side the glory.

Rossi got off to a slow start, failing to score in the opening four matches of the 1982 World Cup. But when he opened his account with a famous hat-trick against Brazil, the floodgates opened.

The Juventus star then scored both goals in Italy’s 2-0 semi-final victory against Poland before finding the back of net again in the 3-1 final triumph over West Germany.

To this day, Rossi remains one of only three players to have won the World Cup, Golden Boot, and Golden Ball in the same tournament. Oh, and he also scooped the 1982 Ballon d’Or for his troubles.

How could it possibly get better than that?

1. Ronaldo – Brazil (2002)

  • Goals: 8
  • Games: 7
  • Goals Per Game Ratio: 1.14
  • Knockout Goals: 4
  • Final Goals: 2
  • World Cup Winner: Yes

In my eyes, Ronaldo’s Golden Boot win in 2002 is one of the most iconic pieces of World Cup history. The Brazilian megastar was at the peak of his powers back then, gliding past defenders while scoring goals for fun.

Alongside Kempes and Rossi, Ronaldo is a member of an elite group. All three players won the World Cup and the Golden Boot in the same year, as well as scoring in the final.

But while Kempes and Rossi both scored six goals in seven games, Ronaldo scored eight goals in seven outings – netting in all but one of Brazil’s seven matches in Japan and South Korea.

After scoring four goals across three group matches, he hit the target against Belgium in the round of 16 before bagging the winner in Brazil’s 1-0 semi-final triumph over Turkey. He then went on to score both goals against Germany in the final.

If it weren’t for multiple injuries, Ronaldo would have almost certainly challenged for another FIFA World Cup Golden Boot.

RONALDO’S FIFA WORLD CUP RECORD
Games Goals Assists
19 15 5

More FIFA World Cup Content

With a 2.20 goals per game ratio, Kocsis is the most prolific World Cup Golden Boot winner. The Hungarian was also part of one of the greatest World Cup teams in history, making his exploits even more special.

But when you take a step back from the statistics and consider the achievements of every World Cup top scorer, few would argue that Ronaldo isn’t the GOAT.

Not only did the Brazilian chalk up a goals per game ratio of 1.14 at the 2002 World Cup, but he also scored twice in the final to lead his country to glory. As far as I’m concerned, that makes him the greatest Golden Boot winner in World Cup history.

If you enjoy looking back at past World Cups, you can relive the 2018 World Cup. We also have a detailed history of the FIFA World Cup on our site, along with a page dedicated to records and statistics from the FIFA World Cup.

To keep up to date with all the latest World Cup developments, including qualifying news and coverage of the next edition of the tournament, head over to our FIFA World Cup blog.

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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