The Golden Shoe - its history and the winners

Perhaps the most prestigious trophy a striker in Europe can win is the European Golden Shoe (or European Golden Boot), i.e. Europe's best goal scorer awarded each season. The award was created by the French newspaper L'Équipe 1968. 1991 was the last year L 'Équipe handed out the prize, but since the season 1996/1997, the media company European Sports Media (ESM) started to hand out the award once again. European Sports Media are still the ones handing out the prize as of today.

As long as L'Équipe was handing out the prize, a goal was worth a goal, which meant that many of the winners came from the smaller leagues. Among other things, Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria won the prize in 1990 together with the Mexican Hugo Sánchez (Sánchez was playing for Real Madrid) even though Stoichkov that year played in CSKA Sofia in the Bulgarian league. When ESM re-restarted the prize, they created a points system where a goal in the major leagues is worth 2 points, and a goal in the smaller leagues is worth only one point.

The points system

So as mentioned, in the five biggest leagues a goal gives you 2 points (the leagues are La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1), leagues ranked from 6 to 22 (based on the UEFA ranking the year the league starts) give 1.5 points per goal and leagues ranked from 23 and lower give only 1 point per goal. You can find the current UEFA league rankings here. This points system makes it almost impossible to win the European Golden Shoe if you play in a low-ranked league (which maybe not feels completely wrong anyway).

Another aspect of the prize apart from the fact that the points system may not always feel completely fair is the number of matches played. Some leagues play fewer matches in a season compared to others, so in other words, players have fewer minutes to score. That the points system and number of matches gives a slightly skewed picture is confirmed by the fact that the last time someone outside the top 5 leagues won the Golden Shoe was the 2001/2002 season when Jardel in Sporting Lisbon managed to win the prize (and the year before Henrik Larsson won when he played in Celtic in Scotland).

The winners

Not surprisingly, two players have dominated this award in recent years. In the last 11 years, Lionel Messi has won the award six times and Cristiano Ronaldo four times. It is also Messi who has the points record, in the 2011/2012 season he scored a total of 50 goals for Barcelona in La Liga and thus reached 100 points in total. This record feels almost unbeatable, especially considering that to have a chance to beat it, someone must score over 50 goals in one of the top 5 leagues. To reach over 100 points in a 1.5-point league would require 67 league goals in one season...

The reigning champion/award winner, however, is neither Messi nor Ronaldo. Ciro Immobile scored 36 goals last season (season 2020/2021) for his Lazio which was enough to win that year. Luis Suárez is the second player to break through as the winner between Messi and Ronaldo in the last 11 years, in the 2013/2014 season he scored 31 goals for Liverpool (however, he shared the trophy with Ronaldo this season).

A bit of various facts among the winning players if we look a bit back in time:
  1. First winner - Eusébio, Portugal for Benfica season 1967/1968 with 42 goals
  2. First time to win the prize twice - Gerd Müller, Germany for Bayern Munich 1970 (38 goals) and 1972 (40 goals)
  3. First to win the prize three times - Lionel Messi won his third European Golden Shoe in 2013, the following year Cristiano Ronaldo equaled this with his third win
  4. First non-European to win - Argentine Héctor Yazalde was the first non-European to be awarded the prize in the 1973/1974 season - 46 goals scored for Sporting
  5. Winners from the most odd league - 1976 the Cypriot Sotiris Kaiafas won playing for Omonia Nicosia in the highest league on Cyprus, scoring 39 goals
  6. Winners of the most odd league that did not win - Georgia Zviad Endeladze who played for the club Margveti in Georgia would have won the Golden Shoe in 1996 if not the prize had been paused between 1992-1996

The most awarded clubs

Among the clubs that have the most winners of the Golden Shoe there is a Spanish dominance. Barcelona has the most wins with 8 players and Real Madrid has the second most with 4 winning players (all wins by Cristiano Ronaldo). Shared on the third place with three wins each is Porto and a little surprisingly Dinamo Bucharest (Dudu Georgescu had 2 wins in the 70's and Dorin Mateut won in 1989).

Most winning leagues

Here too there is (naturally based on the above) a Spanish dominance, in total Spanish clubs have had 15 winners spread over 7 different players. Portugal is second with 7 victories and the Premier League has 6 victories. One should of course keep in mind that the Spanish league is considered a very goal-oriented league in the recent years, much due to the fact that modern time true goal machines (we all know which ones) have played in La Liga for a large part of the 2000s, hence the La Liga dominance here.

Most awarded nationalities

Here one might think that Argentina would be dominant but the fact is that the nation with the most winners is Portugal with 8 wins, and Argentina is only second with its 7 wins. Cristiano Ronaldo has accounted for half of Portugal's wins and in addition, Eusébio has 2 wins and Porto's old goal machine in the 70's and 80's Fernando Gomes also has two wins. Holland and Uruguay share the third place with 4 wins each.