This season’s Premier League Golden Boot race looks likely to be one of the closest ever.

Unlike previous years in which there have been several viable contenders at the top of the market, this is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah, with Romelu Lukaku poised to join as a third serious challenger once he completes his move from Inter Milan to Chelsea.

The Premier League is unusually short of elite forwards this season, and doubts surround all the players following the above three in the market.

Some are wingers like Diogo Jota, Raheem Sterling and Sadio Mane, who should score plenty but don’t fit the traditional archetype of a Golden Boot winner – a central striker who plays every game.

All three scored under 12 league goals last season, so a jump up to the 22 or 23 typically required to be the league’s top scorer looks out of their reach this season.

Then there are Timo Werner, Jamie Vardy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – big-name strikers who struggled for form last season.

Werner netted just six goals in his first Premier League season with Chelsea and is now likely to lose his place to Lukaku.

Aubameyang scored 10 in 29 games and looked nothing like the player who won a share of the Golden Boot in 2018/19. Of the last 12 Golden Boot winners, 11 were under the age of 30, so perhaps age has caught up to the 32-year-old.

The same applies to Vardy, now 34. Although he tallied 15 goals last season, he saw Kelechi Iheanacho emerge as Leicester’s most prolific scorer towards the end of the campaign.

Finally, there are players like Patrick Bamford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings, all coming off excellent seasons for teams that finished in mid-table.

All three are in good situations to score plenty again this season, but 24 of the last 25 Golden Boot winners played for teams that finished in the top six, so it’s likely this year’s top scorer again comes from one of the Premier League’s traditional powers.

It’s worth focusing on the Kane, Salah and Lukaku trio, then.

Kane is currently the favourite and is clearly a formidable scorer at his best, but he’s angling for a move to Man City and will likely miss Tottenham’s first match of the season.

It’s hard to imagine he’s going to be fully focused, at least until the transfer window is over. If he does start the season playing for Spurs before moving to City, it’s worth noting that only one player in Premier League history has played for two clubs in one season and won the Golden Boot: Teddy Sheringham for Nottingham Forest and Tottenham in 1992/93.

That – along with the injury problems that Kane has had in the past – is enough reason to avoid him here.

Lukaku, meanwhile, is yet to officially join Chelsea and will have to find his place in a crowded front line that also features Werner and Kai Havertz.

While he was prolific throughout his time with Inter, the Belgian has had seven seasons of at least 30 appearances in the Premier League, scoring more than 18 goals just once.

Of the three, Salah is the best bet at .

The Egyptian has been incredibly consistent since moving to Anfield in 2017, averaging over 23 goals per season and reaching 19 goals in all four campaigns.

He scored 22 last term even as Liverpool endured a disappointing campaign, and with Jurgen Klopp’s side looking like potential title winners once again it would be no surprise if Salah goes beyond that tally this season.

The main mark against him is the African Cup of Nations, which could see him miss up to a month at the turn of the year.

The impact of his AFCON involvement is perhaps overstated, though. When Salah last took part in the tournament mid-season – as a Roma player in 2017 – he still finished on 15 league goals, which was at that point the highest of his career.

It’s also worth noting that the best scoring season of Aubameyang’s career – 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund in 2016/17 – also came in an AFCON year.

Salah is a much more prolific scorer now than he was in his Roma days, and he will still likely play in over 30 league games this season.

That should provide him more than enough opportunity to post a big total and join Kane on three Premier League Golden Boot wins.

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