As Mohamed Salah scored his 15th Premier League goal of the season in only mid-December, even with the caveat of a spell away for the Africa Cup of Nations, it felt inconceivable Liverpool’s red-hot star wouldn’t win a third Golden Boot.
But despite Liverpool remaining firmly on the hunt for a historic quadruple, the Egyptian has since lost some of his scoring touch and now faces serious competition for the accolade.
It was Harry Kane who claimed the honour with 23 strikes last season, but this year it’s his strike partner Son Heung-min who is carrying the goalscoring burden as Tottenham look to cement a place in the top-four.
Also making a late surge is a rampant Cristiano Ronaldo, who notched his 18th league goal of the season against Brentford on Monday to match Johnny Hancocks’s feat from 1955-56 as the highest scoring top-flight player aged 37 or over in a single season.
Liverpool pair Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane have also enjoyed prolific campaigns, scoring 15 and 14 goals respectively, but ultimately just three contenders remain as the season approaches it’s conclusion.
With that in mind, Sportsmail breaks down the Golden Boot race as it reaches an exciting crescendo.
Mohamed Salah is the favourite to win the Premier League Golden Boot award this season
Son Heung-min (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) are also firmly in the hunt for the prize
Golden Boot odds
Mohamed Salah: 1/14
Son Heung-min: 15/2
Cristiano Ronaldo: 25/1
*Odds as per Betfair
Mohamed Salah – 22 goals
We start with the current leader, Salah, who has won the Premier League Golden Boot on two prior occasions.
The first came in the 2017-18 campaign – his debut season for Liverpool – where he scored 32 goals in 36 games; the second came the season after where he shared the prize with Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with all three scoring 22.
Salah earlier in the campaign looked certain to win both the Premier League Golden Boot and Player of the Season, with one hand already on the 2022 Ballon d’Or trophy.
In scoring an emphatic hat-trick as Liverpool demolished Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford in only October, Salah had amounted a staggering 10 goals in nine games, scoring in seven successive outings.
But though missing just two league games while away for AFCON – where his Egypt side were beaten in the final by Senegal – his form, certainly in front of goal, has plummeted somewhat since his return.
The prolific Salah remains the favourite to win the Premier League Golden Boot on 22 goals
The Liverpool star has managed just two goals in his last six Premier League outings, however
Salah, who had scored 16 goals in 20 games beforehand, has scored just six in 12 since returning. And in the last six games – where he’s been given a starting role on just four occasions – the forward has notched only two goals.
The January acquisition of Luis Diaz has certainly afforded Jurgen Klopp the luxury of rotating his front line, and with six monumental games to play after Liverpool battled past Villarreal to reach the Champions League final, Salah could certainly find himself benched again this season.
Should the unthinkable happen and Liverpool lose ground to Manchester City in the Premier League title chase, it could be the FA Cup and Champions League finals – on May 14 and 28 respectively – that become the priority.
In terms of their remaining league fixtures, though, Salah has typically enjoyed himself against their upcoming opposition: Tottenham, Aston Villa, Southampton and Wolves.
Scoring 22 goals in 38 games against the quartet (0.58 per game), it’s only Wolves who Salah has struggled against – and the Egyptian will feel he only needs one or two from the four games to secure the prize.
Son Heung-min – 19 goals
Next up we have Son, who is thriving under Antonio Conte, already enjoying his best-ever return in a Premier League campaign with 19 goals.
Unlike Salah, the South Korean is currently thriving in front of goal, scoring eight times in his last league six outings.
That’s despite Tottenham failing to hit the target in two of those fixtures, coming in a highly disappointing 1-0 home defeat by Brighton and a rather lackluster 0-0 draw away at Brentford.
Also unlike Salah, Son – unless injured – is guaranteed to start and play the majority of all four of Tottenham’s remaining four fixtures, with the north London club facing an almighty battle against rivals Arsenal for a Champions League spot.
Though all eyes were on Kane last summer, with the England captain pushing for a move to Manchester City, it’s Son who has proven to be Tottenham’s most potent force this season.
Tottenham’s Son is in the form of his life, scoring a best-ever 19 Premier League goals to date
The South Korean star has astonishingly scored 11 of his 19 goals with his weaker left foot
His stunning double against Leicester – both with his left foot – saw him move to 11 weak-foot strikes for the season, now just one behind Robin van Persie for the Premier League record for a single campaign.
And astonishingly, of those who have scored 80 goals or more in the division, no one has scored more with their weak foot than Son at 44 per cent, as per The Athletic.
It’s not just how well-rounded Son is that is so impressive, having contributed seven assists alongside his 19 goals, but how clinical he has been in front of goal.
The forward has had just 57 shots on goal throughout the campaign, significantly fewer than Ronaldo on 76 and Salah on 97.
Even in the last 10 games, where Son and Ronaldo have outscored Salah, it’s the Liverpool forward who’s had the most clear cut chances.
Though still three behind Salah with just four games to play, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see their totals nail-bitingly close come the end of the campaign.
Coming up for Tottenham are Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley and Norwich in four must-win games. In good news for Spurs, Son scored against three of those sides in the reverse fixtures, with Burnley the only exception.
Of course, Tottenham will come in as underdogs against Liverpool, while their home tie against Arsenal is a genuine 50-50. But, while they have struggled to create opportunities against those who put 11 behind the ball, Spurs – and Son – should get chances against both.
Even Burnley have become a significantly less rigid team since the departure of Sean Dyche, while Norwich have already been relegated to the Championship.
Son will need Salah’s lackluster spell in front of goal to continue if he’s to come out on top. But if it does, the South Korean is in with a chance.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 18 goals
Finally, we have Ronaldo, who, like Son, has been in scintillating form in the closing stages of the Premier League campaign.
The legendary forward has scored nine goals in his last six games – and he would perhaps be even closer to Salah if he hadn’t missed three of United’s last nine Premier League games.
Alongside a hip flexor injury and illness, which forced him out of United’s games against Manchester City and Leicester respectively, Ronaldo was also granted compassionate leave following the heartbreaking news of the death of his newborn baby boy.
The ever-consistent Ronaldo has continued where he left off after returning to the squad, however, scoring in all three games since. In fact, the Portuguese now has six goals in his last four games.
No player aged 37 or above has ever scored more goals than Ronaldo in a single campaign
Where he will play next season remains an unknown, however, with his future up in the air
Even despite United’s desperate form – they are likely to come sixth after a second-place finish last year – Ronaldo has continued to bang in the goals with regularly.
But, unfortunately for Ronaldo, his late surge will perhaps prove to be futile, with just two games remaining for United this season having already played 36.
Those games will come against Brighton – whose recent upturn in form has seen Graham Potter’s side climb into the top half of the table – and Crystal Palace, who Ronaldo has failed to score against in two prior encounters.
The 3-0 win against Brentford on Monday was also their final game of the season at Old Trafford, which is where Ronaldo has largely scored his goals. In fact, just four of his 18 league goals have come away from home.
To even stand a chance of sharing the Golden Boot prize, Ronaldo would need four goals in two games, also relying on neither Son or Salah eclipsing 22 strikes. Even despite his incredible standards, it seems unlikely.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to look past Salah, with the games running out for Ronaldo, and Son needing to overturn a three-goal deficit.
The Liverpool forward only needs a couple of goals to make it a very difficult ask for his closest competitors, though Son could change the complexion of the race during the clash between the sides on Saturday night.
None of Son’s 19 goals have come from the penalty spot, though, and if it does get closer it will be interesting to see if Kane is willing to step aside should Tottenham be awarded a spot-kick.
As things stand, with four games remaining, it’s Salah who remains in the driver’s seat.