The Africa Cup of Nations is the most prestigious competition in African football and the prize for the tournament’s top scorer is always fiercely contested among some of the game’s biggest names.
Former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo currently holds the title, having scored five goals for Nigeria in the 2019 AFCON. To achieve that feat, he moved two goals clear of Riyad Mahrez, Adam Ounas, Cedric Bakambu and Sadio Mane.
However, the Nigerian international will face stiff competition from Mohamed Salah, Famara Diedhiou, Baghdad Bounedjah and more to hold onto his title this time round.
As a result, Sportsmail has looked through those with the strongest credentials to challenge for the Golden Boot in Cameroon over the next four weeks.
Algeria were crowned winners of the Africa Cup of Nations when it was last held, back in 2019
AFCON GOLDEN BOOT WINNERS 2000-2019
2019: Odion Ighalo – Nigeria (5 goals)
2017: Junior Kabananga – DR Congo (3 goals)
2015: Thievy Bifouma – DR Congo (3 goals), Dieumerci Mbokani – DR Congo (3 goals), Andre Ayew – Ghana (3 goals), Ahmed Akaichi -Tunisia (3 goals), Balboa – Equatorial Guinea (3 goals)
2013: Wakaso Mubarak – Ghana (4 goals), Emmanuel Emenike – Nigeria (4 goals)
2012: Pierre Aubameyang – Gabon (3 goals), Manucho -Angola (3 goals), Houssine Kharja – Morocco (3 goals), Emmanuel Mayuka – Zambia (3 goals), Didier Drogba -Ivory Coast (3 goals), Chris Katongo – Zambia (3 goals), Cheick Diabate – Mali (3 goals)
2010: Mohamed Gedo – Egypt (5 goals)
2008: Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon (5 goals)
2006: Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon (5 goals)
2004: Youssef Mokhtari – Morocco (4 goals), Patrick M’Boma -Cameroon (4 goals), Jay Jay Okocha – Nigeria (4 goals), Frederic Kanoute – Mali (4 goals), Francileudo Santos – Tunisia (4 goals)
2002: Salomon Olembe – Cameroon (3 goals), Patrick M’Boma (3 goals), Julius Aghahowa – Nigeria (3 goals)
2000: Shaun Bartlett – South Africa (5 goals)
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 9/4
It comes as no surprise that Mo Salah has been tipped to win the AFCON Golden Boot this year. The Egyptian forward has once again taken the Premier League by storm – becoming the first Liverpool player to net more than 20 goals in five consecutive seasons since Ian Rush managed the same feat.
Salah’s goal against AC Milan in the Champions League in December saw the Egyptian find the back of the net for the 11th time in Liverpool’s last 11 European games.
His goal on Sunday in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw away at Chelsea was his 23rd in all competitions this season and few players head to Cameroon in better form than the ‘Egyptian King’.
Salah will be hoping to continue his fine form on the international stage, having finished 18th in the standings for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations top scorers (third from the bottom) on just two goals.
It comes as no surprise that Mo Salah has been tipped to win the AFCON Golden Boot this year
Will Odion Ighalo find himself in the running for the Golden Boot again?
The former Watford and Manchester United forward scored five goals in as many games as the Super Eagles progressed to the semi-finals in 2019 before losing out to the eventual winners, Algeria.
That was enough to clinch him the Golden Boot.
Ighalo was in spectacular form heading into the competition, having scored a remarkable 36 goals in 55 league matches during the 2017-18 season with Changchun Yatai and 10 goals in 17 league appearances with Shanghai Shenhua in 2019.
However, question marks have been raised over the likelihood of him picking up the award again given the fact the veteran attacker last represented the national side more than two years ago.
Odion Ighalo could be in the running after picking up the award at the 2019 tournament
Nevertheless, Ighalo has enjoyed some success in front of goal for both Manchester United and Saudi outfit Al-Shabab. The Nigerian joined the Red Devils on deadline day in January 2020, becoming the first Nigerian to play for the club and only the seventh from the continent.
Ighalo made his full debut in the Europa League round of 32 clash against Club Brugge and scored his maiden goal in the European competition as United cruised to a 5-0 win.
Then, just a week later, Ighalo bagged a brace in their FA Cup victory over Derby County before netting a spectacular volley against LASK prior to the Covid-19 hiatus.
However, his opportunities were limited following the break and he ultimately left United having scored five goals in 23 appearances across all competitions.
Nevertheless, Ighalo rediscovered his goal-scoring form at Al-Shabab – scoring three in his opening seven league matches for the Saudi outfit.
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 11/2
Sadio Mane has been instrumental since heading to Liverpool and it would be remiss to leave him out of the running for this year’s AFCON Golden Boot award.
Having played 20 games so far this term for Jurgen Klopp’s side, Mane has scored eight goals and created 21 chances. He has also completed 30 successful dribbles into the box and registered 61 shots.
Mane also finished third in the standings for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations top scorers – having scored three times and registered one assist in Senegal’s run to the final.
Mane has been instrumental at Liverpool this season and it would be criminal to leave him
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 15/2
The Algeria international has scored 169 goals and set up 44 more in 165 games for Al-Sadd, as well as netting 24 times in 47 appearances for his country. How can we leave him out with those numbers?
Bounedjah also finished as the top scorer in the 2020-21 Qatar Stars League with 21 goals in 19 appearances as well as registering seven assists.
Such statistics mean Bounedjah scores an average of 1.1 goals for every 90 minutes that he is on the pitch. Dynamite.
As a result, he is reportedly being head hunted by Barcelona as the LaLiga side look to bolster their options in the striker position this month.
This would see their manager, Xavi, reunited with another one of his former team-mates at the Nou Camp.
Baghdad Bounedjah has scored 169 goals and set up 44 more in 165 games for Al-Sadd
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 12/1
Mahrez – who was one of six Manchester City players nominated for the 2021 Ballon d’Or award – is viewed as a serious contender for the Golden Boot.
Mahrez has become a big occasion player – scoring in some of City’s most important games. This can be evidenced by City’s clash with Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of last season’s Champions League semi-final.
The winger scored a stunning free-kick in the 71st minute of the game to secure his side the famous victory. Pep Guardiola even credited Mahrez saying: ‘He played really well and in the big stages he handles it really well’.
Mahrez has become a big occasion player – scoring in some of City’s most important games
AFCON – MATCHDAY 1
Jan 9: Cameroon vs Burkina Faso; Ethiopia vs Cabo Verde
Jan 10: Zimbabwe vs Senegal; Guinea vs Malawi; Ghana vs Morocco; Comoros vs Gabon
Jan 11: Sierra Leone vs Algeria; Egypt vs Nigeria; Sudan vs Guinea-Bissau
Jan 12: Tunisia vs Mali; Mauritania vs Gambia; Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast
As a result, Mahrez became Guardiola’s go-to man at the business end of the 2020-21 campaign – scoring a sensational goal against Everton to initiate the blistering form that saw him manage six goals in six games.
He also provided assists against Arsenal and West Ham before getting on the scoresheet himself against Wolves and Southampton.
Mahrez went on to score vital goals against Borussia Dortmund and PSG on the European stage to cap off what had been a brilliant season for the winger.
The 14 goals he scored in all competitions in 2020-21 was the best return of his City career to date. He demonstrated blistering form after returning from the summer break, scoring eight times in nine starts.
Mahrez has now scored six Premier League goals and registered four assists for City during the 2021-22 season.
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 20/1
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may not be the first player that springs to mind when you think of the Golden Boot given his recent exile in north London. But the former Arsenal captain will be heading to the Africa Cup of Nations with a point to prove.
Arsenal made the decision to unceremoniously strip Aubameyang of his role as their captain after he made a third ‘disciplinary breach’ – returning late after being given permission to go abroad to visit his sick mother. He has been banished from the first team ever since by boss Mikel Arteta.
Therefore, Aubameyang will be looking to prove his doubters wrong by returning to England with the golden boot.
Although, that may be easier said than done considering he has been struggling for form and will be out of match practice as he was dropped for fixtures against Southampton and West Ham.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be heading to the Africa Cup of Nations with a point to prove
Odds on winning the Golden Boot: 10/1
Famara Diedhiou is another player who could be in the running to win this year’s Golden Boot. He spent the last four years playing with Bristol City creating a name for himself.
Diedhiou, now in Turkey with Alanyaspor, is known for his goalscoring abilities – having provided 51 goals in 169 appearances for City having joined from Angers in 2017.
Eight of those goals also came in the 40 Championship outings he made last season.
As a result, the Senegal international has created a strike rate that equates to an average of just over 12.5 per season.
Famara Diedhiou is another player who could be in the running to win this year’s Golden Boot
AFCON GOLDEN BOOT ODDS
Mo Salah 9/4
Sadio Mane 11/2
Baghdad Bounedjah 15/2
Famara Diedhiou 10/1
Riyad Mahrez 12/1
Hakim Ziyech 16/1
Adam Ounas 20/1
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 20/1
* Golden Boot odds via bettingexpert