Blog > News & Trivia

Golden Ball Vs Golden Boot: What Are They And What's The Difference?

Golden Ball Vs Golden Boot: What Are They And What's The Difference?

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup offers the chance for the world's best footballers — from Lionel Messi to Kylian Mbappe — to strut their stuff on the biggest stage. And while every player's main goal will be to help their nation get their hands on the prized trophy, there's more than one accolade on the line at each tournament.

Alongside the famous Jules Rimet trophy (renamed in 1946 to honour FIFA's former president), there are a few other awards available for players to win at each tournament. These are the FIFA World Cup Awards: the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball and the Golden Glove awards, designed to credit the achievements of standout individuals across all areas of the pitch, with the Golden Glove going to the tournament's best goalkeeper and the other two accolades being handed to outfield players. But what exactly is the difference between the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot?

In this article, we'll be explaining what each of these awards are and listing some famous winners from over the years. We'll start with the Golden Ball prize. 

What Is The Golden Ball?

After each World Cup ends, the FIFA Technical Study Group (sometimes known as the technical committee) hand out five key awards: the Golden Ball, the Golden Boot, the Golden Glove, the FIFA Young Player Award, and the FIFA Fair Play Trophy. Out of all these awards, the Golden Ball is perhaps the most impressive of all. 

The Golden Ball is the award given to the person who is judged to be the best player at a particular World Cup tournament. And there's an Olympic-style hierarchy here, with the second and third-best players of the competition awarded the Silver Ball and the Bronze Ball respectively.

Currently, the Golden Ball is sponsored by German sportswear brand adidas and French sports magazine France Football, two organisations that have been closely tied to the Golden Ball World Cup award ever since its introduction for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

On that occasion, it was iconic Italy forward Paolo Rossi who won the trophy.

The way the winner is picked is simple: the FIFA Technical Study Group come up with a shortlist of players, and are joined by members of the world's footballing media to cast votes on players based on their performances at the featured World Cup. The goal, assist, or clean sheet contributions of players will be taken into account, as well as their role within their team and overall individual performances.

What Is The Golden Boot?

There's one key skill that comes into play for this award: scoring goals. If you're not able to convert chances and offer a deadly threat in opposition penalty areas, you've got no chance of winning the Golden Boot.

The Golden Boot award is given to the player that scores the highest number of goals in a single World Cup tournament. As a result, the winners of the Golden Boot (or Golden Shoe, as it used to be called) will tend to be forwards, and generally speaking they'll play for the best nations, as the better the team is, the longer they'll progress in the tournament and the more games there will be for any top attackers to grab a goal in.

The Golden Boot is an extremely prestigious award, but the amount of goals needed to claim the prize can vary hugely. Back in 2010, Germany's Thomas Muller was able to get his hands on the Golden Boot having scored just five goals in the tournament, while on the other end of the spectrum, Lionel Messi bagged seven goals at the 2022 World Cup but missed out on the Golden Boot due to Kylian Mbappe surpassing his return. 

There's one more thing we should mention: if two or more players score the same number of goals in a tournament, the winner of the Golden Boot will be decided by who has the most assists. Then, if things are still tied, it comes down to the number of minutes played, with the player who has notched less (and therefore has a better goals per minute ratio) winning the trophy.

Golden Ball Vs Golden Boot: What's The Difference?

The difference between the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot is simple: while the Golden Boot is given to the player who scores the most goals in a tournament, the Golden Ball can be won by any player, regardless of how many they score in a single competition — instead, it's judged by overall performance and general play throughout the tournament.

Essentially, the Golden Ball offers a broader church, with any outfield player capable of winning the award as a result of impressive contributions to a team's performances, while the Golden Boot is a much more attacker-specific trophy that hones in on the players who get all the glory at the top end of the pitch.

Another potential source of confusion is the fact that the coveted 'Ballon d'Or' — an annual award given to Europe's best player, with past winners including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta — is also a direct translation of 'Golden Ball'. Because of this translation, it's important to note that they are two completely separate awards.

Famous Golden Ball Winners

In terms of creativity and attacking magic, the following players stand out in their own lane, and after particularly sparkling FIFA World Cup performances they've managed to underline their star ability by adding a Golden Ball win to their collection.

Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Diego Maradona is thought by many to be the greatest player to have ever walked the planet. At the 1986 World Cup, he backed up that ability by leading Argentina to glory, beating England in a famous 2-0 quarter final victory along the way. His performances in that tournament led to him receiving the Golden Ball award, the icing on the cake having already lifted the trophy for his side.

Romario (Brazil)

Brazil legend Romario, who played for his national side between 1987 and 2005, had a ridiculously good goalscoring record both for club and country. Bagging over 700 career goals, he was a key part of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning squad, his instrumental role in the Selecao's attack being recognised by a Golden Ball win.

Zinedine Zidane (France)

Zidane is a born headline grabber, and though he may have gained fame for the wrong reasons in the 2006 World Cup final, his incredible performances throughout that tournament also won him a well-deserved Golden Ball victory. His beautiful first touch, creative vision, passing ability and talismanic qualities all played a role in him being handed the Golden Ball in his final World Cup.

Luka Modric (Croatia)

Croatia's ability to consistently produce world class players despite their tiny population (at around 4 million, it ranks 128th in the world by population) is nothing short of miraculous. Perhaps the best player to ever come out of the country is Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric, who having shone throughout the 2018 World Cup, guiding his nation to the final against all the odds, was awarded that year's Golden Ball.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

The only player to have won the Golden Ball award twice (in 2014 and 2022), Argentina captain Lionel Messi will go down in history as perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game. His consistently spectacular World Cup performances have regularly demonstrated that star quality at the highest possible level, and at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he finally got his hands on the Jules Rimet trophy in the most dramatic style.

Famous Golden Boot Winners

Below is a short list of some of the most prolific goal scorers the world stage has ever seen.

Just Fontaine (France)

French striker Just Fontaine's incredible 13 goals (scored at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden) remain the most any player has ever notched at a single tournament. Fontaine's record is even more astounding considering his nation didn't even reach that year's World Cup final, with Pele's Brazil knocking them out with a 5-2 semi-final victory. It's a goal-scoring record that's unlikely to ever be broken.

Eusebio (Portugal)

Portugal's Eusebio is widely regarded as one of history's greatest footballers, his 14-year spell at Benfica marking him down as probably the club's most legendary player.

He also made waves at international level, scoring 41 goals in 64 games for Portugal, including a staggering nine at the 1966 World Cup, a tally that not only won him the World Cup Golden Boot but smashed away competition from the likes of Germany's Helmut Haller (second place with six goals).

Gerd Muller (West Germany)

An archetypal Number 9 known for his clinical finishing and clever penalty box movement, Gerd Muller scored over 600 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany during the 1960s and 70s. During that period, he won two major international trophies with his country, the 1972 European Championships and the 1974 World Cup.

At the latter tournament, he notched a decent four goals, but it was the 1970 World Cup in Mexico that saw Muller grab the Golden Boot, his ten goals ensuring he went home as top scorer.

Ronaldo (Brazil)

The original Ronaldo inspired a generation of young attackers with his phenomenal dribbling ability and extraordinary finishing skills. At the 2002 World Cup, he was arguably at his peak, scoring eight goals as Brazil lifted the trophy in South Korea and Japan (including a famous double in the final against Germany) and landing himself the Golden Boot award as a result.

Kylian Mbappe (France)

One of the most lethal, technically gifted, fastest players in the world, Kylian Mbappe has been a revelation at both the World Cups he's played at. Russia 2018 saw him grab four goals and win the tournament with France, while at Qatar 2022 he doubled his return, scoring a remarkable eight goals in seven games to win the Golden Boot for the first time.

That list of Golden Boot winners contains some of the most fearsome strikers in the history of the spot, as you'd expect. If you want to gain some further insight into exactly what it takes to be a world class forward, check out our in-depth guide to the role of the striker in soccer.