With the European football season ending in just a few weeks, attention has turned to the Premier League top-four battle, the title race and the Champions League – as well as who will be crowned this year's Golden Shoe winner.
The European Golden Shoe is an annual award presented to the leading goalscorer in league games from the top division of every national league in the continent.
Lionel Messi has been a favourite for the award since the start of the season alongside Kylian Mbappe, who has continued to impress on the pitch since his World Cup heroics with France last summer. Cristiano Ronaldo was expected to be another frontrunner in the race for the Golden Shoe, but his move to Juventus hasn't seen him keep up the pace with his former rival at Barcelona – and he doesn't even lead the goalscoring charts in Italy.
The duo of Messi and Mbappe have been the two clear standout favourites to clinch the European Golden Shoe this season, though the Argentine has just slightly better odds in his favour. By the end of April, the two are separated by four goals – with Messi leading on 34 – though there is still time for a spectacular end-of-season push from the young France international.
The Barcelona superstar has hit new heights yet again this season despite worries of him entering his 'twilight years' at the beginning of the campaign. Messi not only leads as top scorer for domestic goals in Europe, but also as top scorer in the Champions League charts. He is likely not to be beaten in his Champions League tally – sporting 10 goals going into the first leg of the semi-finals against Liverpool – with Robert Lewandowski in second place, whose Bayern side have already been eliminated from the competition.
A Golden Shoe win for the 31-year-old will be his third in three years, scoring 37 goals in 2017-18 and 34 goals in the 2016-17 campaign. Messi has already equalled his record from two seasons ago by the end of April and it's difficult to imagine that he won't score at least a few more before the final game of the campaign.
Messi already scored the most important goal for Barcelona in La Liga when his solitary strike against Leganes at the end of April secured his side's 26th Spanish victory. Barcelona won La Liga with three games left to play. Though it is possible he will be rested during La Liga games to concentrate on the Champions League, there's no denying his impact as a substitute.
Mbappe, however, has been an impressive force for a Paris Saint-Germain side that has been largely disappointing this season, despite being crowned French champions. PSG were expected to win Ligue 1 much earlier than they actually did, delaying their title celebrations by a handful of weeks after shock losses and draws where Mbappe accused his side of not having the right mentality.
That's not to mention PSG's early Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester United at the round of 16 phase, as well as a Coupe de France loss to Rennes through penalty shootout that means that the French side will finish the season with just one piece of silverware in the league title.
Though Messi has been the stern favourite to clinch his third successive Golden Shoe for the majority of the campaign, Mbappe could very well make up the four-goal difference quite easily should the Argentina international be rested for his remaining La Liga matches. The France star netted a hat-trick against Monaco in late April to keep the pressure on Messi.
PSG, of course, have no more European commitments, and Mbappe could use the last few games of his season to increase his goal tally and regain the edge from Messi.