Jamie Vardy won the Premier League Golden Boot for the first time in his career on Sunday despite a poor end to the season for Leicester City that saw them miss out on the Champions League.
England forward Vardy, 33, became the oldest player to win the award for the league’s top scorer after netting 23 goals, one more than Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Southampton’s Danny Ings.
With Chelsea ensuring a top four finish with a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vardy drew a blank as the Foxes failed to gain the win against Manchester United that they needed to leapfrog Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into the top four.
Vardy came closest for Leicester in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium when he hit the bar on the hour mark.
Ederson took the Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets after Manchester City’s 5-0 win over relegated Norwich took him to 16 for the season.
He finished one ahead of Burnley stopper Nick Pope, whose team suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Brighton.
While the Premier League title has already been won by Liverpool in record time, the battle to finish as the top-flight’s leading scorer is set to go down to the wire.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah could add the Golden Boot to his Premier League winners’ medal, but he has work to do to catch Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, who sits top of the goal charts with four games left.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also in contention to get his hands on the prize after sharing it with Salah and Sadio Mane last season when the trio each scored 22 goals.
Southampton’s Danny Ings is the dark horse after an unexpectedly prolific campaign.
With 22 league goals to his credit so far this term, Vardy is in pole position to take the prize, especially after rediscovering his peak form over the last week.
Vardy failed to score in Leicester’s first four games after the coronavirus hiatus, but the 33-year-old netted twice against Crystal Palace to pass 100 Premier League goals and struck again at Arsenal.
“He’s a legend here for the rest of his time at the club, it’s just what he adds to that status over the rest of his career,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said after Vardy became the 29th player to join the Premier League 100-goal club.
Winning the Golden Boot would be another landmark moment for Vardy, who has defied the odds throughout his remarkable rise from non-league journeyman to Premier League champion four years ago.
Vardy’s next opportunity to increase his grip on top spot comes against lowly Bournemouth on Sunday.
The Arsenal forward has scored three times in his last three appearances to move into second place in the goal race.
Aubameyang has netted 20 times this season, his prolific form increased Arsenal’s desire to get the Gabon international to extend a contract that expires at the end of next season.
The 31-year-old is yet to agree a new deal amid reported interest from Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain.
His value to Arsenal comes not just in his goals but in his ability to play wide on the left as well as up front.
Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham and a home game against Liverpool in their following game give Aubameyang a chance to put pressure on Vardy when the spotlight is brightest.
Having won the Golden Boot in 2018 and finished in joint first place last year, the Liverpool forward needs a late goal spree to make it three successive seasons on top of the leaderboard.
Salah’s brace in a 3-1 win at Brighton on Wednesday took him to 19 goals and, with Liverpool chasing a new Premier League points record, the Egyptian is likely to remain in the team even with the title won.
With nine assists this season, compared to four for Vardy, two for Aubameyang and two for Ings, the 28-year-old all round value to Liverpool is arguably higher than any of his Golden Boot rivals.
Next up for Liverpool is Saturday’s clash with Burnley followed by games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle to round off a memorable campaign that could finish on a high for Salah on a personal note as well.
The Southampton striker bagged his 19th goal of the season in Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Everton.
After a blistering run during the winter, the goals had dried up a little for Ings, but the 27-year-old has been back in predatory form since the restart.
Ahead of Monday’s trip to Manchester United, Ings’ four goals in his last five matches have underlined the former Liverpool forward’s case for a possible England call-up when international football resumes.
First, Ings will focus on becoming the first Golden Boot winner to play for a club outside the Premier League’s ‘big six’ since Sunderland’s Kevin Phillips in 1999-2000.
Odion Ighalo insisted on Tuesday that team success is far more important than personal accolades with his goals driving Nigeria’s run to the quarter-finals in Egypt.
The China-based forward finished as the leading scorer in qualifying for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and Ighalo is level alongside Senegal star Sadio Mane at the top of the charts with three goals so far at the finals.
“If I don’t win golden boot but won the trophy I’d be very happy because we are here to do that,” Ighalo said ahead of Wednesday’s clash against South Africa in Cairo.
“I didn’t say I’m not interested but we are here as a team and want to try and win it as a team. I’m a striker I want to score goals but if they don’t come and we win the game I will be more satisfied.”
Ighalo came in for sharp criticism after the Super Eagles were knocked out in the group stage at last year’s World Cup, but coach Gernot Rohr was full of praise for the way he has responded.
“After the World Cup Ighalo was criticised much more than normal,” Rohr recounted. “We spoke together and I saw that he’s very strong mentally.
“Even if his family was a bit scared, he accepted the challenge to come back and play in Seychelles in the first game after the World Cup and give his answer on the pitch. He was the best goalscorer in the qualifiers and when you have someone so strong it’s really happy for the team and the coach.”
After scoring the winner in Nigeria’s opening Cup of Nations game against Burundi, Ighalo delivered a match-winning performance against defending champions Cameroon in the last 16.
He scored twice and set up Alex Iwobi for the decisive goal in Alexandria as Nigeria rallied from 2-1 down to earn a thrilling 3-2 victory. Ighalo used his feet to again hit back at his detractors.
“I don’t really pay attention to critics. I’m a professional and people are bound to criticise me. I think everybody here has been criticised one way or another but you don’t let that get to you,” said Ighalo.
“As long as the coach is satisfied with my job and everything I give on the field, I don’t really pay attention to what people say outside.
“I just give my best in every game I play. Sometimes it won’t be enough but I’m satisfied I gave my best.”
Megan Rapinoe made it a special hat-trick on Sunday as she won Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the women’s World Cup after scoring as the United States beat the Netherlands to retain their title.
Rapinoe bagged the Golden Boot for top scorer after opening the scoring from the spot in the USA’s 2-0 final win over the Netherlands in Lyon to make it six goals and three assists from her five appearances in France, the same total as teammate Alex Morgan but in fewer minutes.
The 34-year-old, who may have played her last World Cup, won the Golden Ball for a series of match-winning displays which dragged the Americans to the trophy.
She scored the only goals in the USA’s tight 2-1 wins over Spain and hosts France, with the second brace coming in the middle of a media storm after a video surfaced of her saying she would refuse to visit the White House should her side win the competition.
She missed the last four victory over England, also won 2-1, with a hamstring injury but came up big on Sunday with another fine display that would have seen her assist tally increase had Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal not put in a magnificent display.
Van Veenendaal kept out the dominant USA until Rapinoe broke the Netherlands’ resistance in the 61st minute with a penalty awarded after a VAR check for a foul on Morgan.
Romelu Lukaku will look at Manchester United’s next three Premier League games as a good opportunity to strengthen his prospects of being this season’s top scorer in the competition.
Wolves visit Old Trafford on Saturday, before a trip to West Ham and a home fixture against Newcastle, by which time Lukaku could be the clear leader in the race for the Golden Boot.
Lukaku goes into this weekend with four Premier League goals, one behind Chelsea’s Eden Hazard at the top of the standings, but has not had an entirely smooth start.
The Belgium striker has scored in each of United’s past two league matches, with both goals in a 2-0 win at Burnley on September 2 and another in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Watford.
Yet he continues to face accusations that he is a ‘flat-track bully’ because of his disappointing record against the rest of England’s big six teams.
Of the 20 Premier League goals Lukaku has scored for United since arriving from Everton in July 2017, only one has come against the teams who made up last season’s final top six – when Chelsea were defeated at Old Trafford in February.
Perhaps, then, a run of fixtures against opponents lower down the table will offer a chance to bolster his goal total.
He may also be helped by the fact Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Tottenham’s Harry Kane have not, so far, reached the high standards they set last season, while Sergio Aguero, who has three league goals to date, is likely to be rotated with Gabriel Jesus at Manchester City.
“You always compete every year against Aguero and Kane, and Salah this year. You always think about (the Golden Boot), being a striker,” Lukaku said.
“But then, while I want to score as much as I can, I want to win championships. That’s why I signed for Manchester United.”
Last season, Lukaku was the sixth-highest scorer in the Premier League with 16 goals, half the total that Salah achieved to win the Golden Boot.
There is an argument, though, that the Belgian was still adjusting to life as a United player the last term.
His all-around game has improved since his days at Everton, something that Mourinho noted after the win at Watford.
Mourinho was quick to credit Lukaku, not for his goal, but for running back half of the length of the pitch late in the game to make a sliding tackle as United held on to their lead.
According to Mourinho, that represents the spirit of the team.
United appear to be in good spirits at present, having won three successive matches for the first time since April.
The victory at Watford was followed on Wednesday by a 3-0 defeat of Swiss side Young Boys in the Champions League, and Mourinho’s recent grumbles about a lack of adequate close-season transfer market activity have quietened.
A consistent goalscoring run from Lukaku over the next fortnight will further improve both the mood and the league position; costly defeats by Brighton and Tottenham during August mean that United go into the weekend lying eighth, six points behind leaders Chelsea.
If Lukaku can keep on scoring regularly beyond that – with a league trip to pace-setters Chelsea to come later in October – then he may have a genuine chance of winning the league titles he craves.
Harry Kane has challenged Mohamed Salah to beat him to the Golden Boot for the Premier League’s top scorer again next season.
The Egyptian’s record 32 goals for a 38-game campaign denied Kane a third consecutive Golden Boot despite the English international’s best-ever campaign as his double in a thrilling 5-4 defeat of Leicester on Sunday took Kane onto 30 league goals.
“Mo has done great this year, he deserves it, he deserves the Golden Boot. I am looking forward to the competition again next year,” said Kane, who was pilloried on social media for claiming a goal off team-mate Christian Eriksen at Stoke last month in his quest to catch Salah.
“For me it is about doing it year after year. This is my fourth year now and the first time I have got to 30 goals in the Premier League. Now it’s about getting to 30 goals for the next two or three years, that’s the aim.
“Any player wants to do it on a consistent basis and that’s what defines a good player from a great player. He has done amazing this year and he looks like a great player, and we’ll see if we can both continue it next season.”
Kane’s goals were good enough, though, for Spurs to edge past Champions League finalists Liverpool to finish third behind Manchester City and Manchester United.
“The top six now is so strong, everyone’s really competitive, so for us to finish in the top three for the third year in a row is brilliant,” added Kane.