The new Champions League season is upon us, and it has the potential to be among the best in the history of the competition.
Europe’s elite have started on the long road to potential glory in eight months’ time, battling for the unique chance to be crowned the best team on the continent at the aptly named Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg in May.
A frenzied summer transfer window in 2021 means there are narratives galore this term; Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain, Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea comeback are all big business.
All three of those names will have high hopes of being the top goalscorer in Europe’s elite club competition come the end of the campaign, but they will have plenty of competition.
With deadly goalscorers on the move left, right and centre, and new strike partnerships (and triumvirates) forming and evolving, the race to be Europe’s leading marksman is sure to be enthralling.
Here are the top ten contenders for the 2021/22 Champions League golden boot – ranked…
Having finally got his move to Camp Nou, Memphis Depay probably never thought he would have to fill Messi’s boots…
It seems he needn’t worry though; he’s started his Barcelona career in scintillating form and at his current goalscoring rate he could easily match Messi’s – ahem – 672 strikes for the club…
Much will depend on how far Barça progress in the competition of course, but there will be goals to be had against Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv in the group stages.
Strangely a name who could feasibly be number one on this list, but he may ultimately be let down by those around him.
Never underestimate Los Blancos though – a side who were semi-finalists despite some dreadful domestic form last time around.
Benzema was among seven players to finish with six goals in last year’s competition, and he’ll be hoping to go a few better.
Whatever you think of him, Cristiano Ronaldo guarantees you goals.
The man is motivated purely by individual and team accolades, and he’s already made it clear he’s not back at Old Trafford for a holiday – although Manchester would be a strange choice if that was the case.
Following last season’s very disappointing group stage exit, it remains to be seen whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can guide United several steps further this time around, but Ronaldo’s goals could prove to be a huge factor in any success.
Since grabbing 10 Champions League goals during the 2017/18 season, Mohamed Salah has not gone close to securing the golden boot.
Could this be the year that this changes?
Liverpool certainly look better placed to go far in the competition this time around, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all back from injury.
This provided Salah with a solid base to work from this season, although the Reds have been placed in a tough group alongside Atletico Madrid, Porto and Milan.
The last time Chelsea defended their Champions League crown during the 2012/13 season, it went horribly wrong with the Blues crashing out at the group stages.
There is little chance of that happening again this time out and a big reason for that is the summer arrival of Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian is one of the most clinical finishers on the planet but he is yet to make his mark in the Champions League, never going past the semi-finals. Lukaku plays best when he has a point to prove, so expect fireworks in Europe from the big man this season.
This season, Paris Saint-Germain boast one of the most electrifying frontlines in the history of the beautiful game.
One third of that trident is Neymar, who knows that time is running out to win a Champions League in Paris. The dynamic of PSG’s front three is yet to be determined but the last time the Brazilian linked up with Lionel Messi, he played the best football of his career.
Opposition defences better watch out.
Slotting in alongside Neymar and Messi this season will be Kylian Mbappe, who will be out to impress after a underwhelming Euro 2020.
The idea of Mbappe racing onto La Pulga’s precise passes makes the mouth water, but this is not the only way he can be expected to score.
The former Monaco man is also capable of beating his man one-on-one and his record of 27 Champions League strikes in just 45 games is set to get even better this campaign.
Only one player has scored more times than Messi in this competition, so of course he’s number three on our list.
Although he is likely to be creator in chief for PSG this season, he is also going to bag a shed load of goals. Messi has registered double-figure Champions League goal tallies in five seasons, most recently in 2018/19.
With a much stronger squad around him in Paris, expect him to make a serious bid for the Golden Boot this campaign.
Erling Haaland’s Champions League goal record defies belief. Despite only playing eight games in the competition last season he still managed to snag the golden boot with 10 goals.
The campaign prior he also made it into double figures, even though eight of his games came for lowly RB Salzburg.
If Borussia Dortmund get some luck in this season’s draw, he has a terrific chance of retaining the top-scorer prize.
It was a close run thing, but Robert Lewandowski has just pipped his Bundesliga colleague to the top spot.
Lewandowski is merciless in front of goal, rarely going a game without finding the back of the net.
The arrival of Julian Nagelsmann in the dugout has not dimmed his finishing ability either, and with Bayern set to go far in this year’s competition it will take some effort to prevent the golden boot heading to Bavaria.
He’s made a great start too – scoring twice in a matchday one demolition of Barcelona.