During the first half of the season, Mohamed Salah looked set to take the Golden Boot home but as the Premier League heads into the final stretch, a certain Tottenham man is hot on his heels.
Son Heung-min caused an Anfield upset for Salah and Co on Saturday night when his strike led to title chasers Liverpool dropping points.
His opener for Tottenham saw him take his top-flight tally up to 20 for the campaign and move to within two of Liverpool’s Egyptian King.
But the 29-year-old is not only providing a challenge for his Premier League rival but also the stars of Europe’s upper echelons as he has staked his claim to be one of the continent’s best this season.
The South Korean has proven to be one of the most economic forwards in front of goal this season, easily pipping his Golden Boot rival.
Son far outshines Salah as he has proven to be more lethal than the Liverpool star with his shot conversion rate of 26.7 per cent this term dwarfing the Egyptian’s 16.9 per cent, according to Opta.
Son Heung-Min (pictured) moved within two of Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Boot with his goal against the Reds on Saturday
The Spurs forward has proven to be more economic in front on goal than Salah (right)
Not only does the Spurs hotshot appear to be outshining his counterparts in the English top-flight but he is also doing so across Europe.
Son has a better shot conversion rate than most of the continent’s expected big names, beating the likes of Europe’s top scorer Robert Lewandowski (21.8 per cent), Karim Benzema (22.4 per cent) and Kylian Mbappe (17.8 per cent).
In fact, only three of Europe’s stars have managed to outperform Son at converting their chances.
In that department Son finds himself beaten by just Erling Haaland and Patrick Schick, who have both registered a rate of 27.3 per cent so far this term, and surprisingly Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder, who tops the charts with 31.8 per cent.
The 29-year-old has a better shot conversion rate than Karim Benzema (left ) and Robert Lewandowski (right)
But it’s not just a matter of the forward being in the right place at the right time to pull the trigger as he’s also proven to possess a creative flair.
Out of the players who have registered 20 goals or more this season in Europe’s big five, Son has created the most chances with 64 in the Premier League.
PSG starlet Kylian Mbappe and naturally Salah are not far behind the Tottenham front man, having created 62 chances each, while Benzema has managed to create a respectable 57.
But Son is miles ahead of some of Europe’s biggest names, more than doubling Haaland’s 23 and easily beating Lewandowski’s 36.
To add to his already impressive record this term, Son can claim he stands out amongst his fellow European stars.
HOW DOES SON STACK UP? B5EL’s 21/22 Goals (20+) Non-Penalty Goals Mins/Goal Shot Conversion Rate xG Assists Chances Created Robert Lewandowski 34 29 84.2 21.8 34.2 3 36 Ciro Immobile 27 20 100.6 22.9 23.1 2 27 Karim Benzema 26 19 93.5 22.4 24 11 57 Patrik Schick 24 23 83.8 27.3 18.4 2 15 Kylian Mbappe 24 21 118.7 17.8 22.9 15 62 Dusan Vlahovic 23 18 124.4 19.5 18.6 3 28 Mohamed Salah 22 17 123.2 16.9 22.4 13 62 Martin Terrier 21 19 121.1 26.9 14.7 1 37 Erling Haaland 21 16 86.9 27.3 17.4 7 23 Wissam Ben Yedder 21 14 112.6 31.8 18.2 5 31 Son Heung-Min 20 20 138.4 26.7 13.1 7 64 Christopher Nkunku 20 19 132.3 26.3 15.6 13 62 Statistics provided by Opta
What makes his goal haul even more impressive is the fact that he has managed it without taking a single penalty.
The Spurs man is the only player across the big five European leagues with 20 goals or more to have scored all of his top-flight goals from open play with fellow Tottenham star Harry Kane on penalty duty.
All 20 of his strikes this term have come from open play, while his counterparts have had to top their tallies up from 12 yards.
Son has been just edged out of the top 10 goal scorers among Europe’s elite but all 10 players above him have scored at least once from the spot.
The fact that Son is only two goals behind Salah in the race for Golden Boot is made even more impressive by the fact that without Salah’s five goals from the spot, Son would be ahead by three due to his ruthless finishing from open play.
Five of Lewandowski’s 34 and Haaland’s 21 goals have also come from spot-kicks, while Benzema and Ben Yedder both needed seven penalties to add to their hauls this season.
Five of Borussia Dortmund starlet Erling Haaland’s goals have come from the penalty spot
Meanwhile, Christopher Nkunku has registered the same goal tally as Son this term, finding the back of the net 20 times for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga but the PSG graduate has scored once from a penalty.
What possibly makes Son’s feat even more impressive is the fact that he has managed it in arguably the most competitive league in Europe.
He has had to fend off competition from two other members of Liverpool’s lethal attacking trident – Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane – as well as fellow team-mate Kane and Manchester United’s sole redeemer Cristiano Ronaldo to fire his way up to second in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
He is arguably a dark horse in the race with his achievements going slightly under the radar as he managed to far surpass expectations of him this term.
Son has overperformed compared to his xG, which is supposed to suggest how well a player should be performing in front of goal.
Christopher Nkunku (centre) has registered the same goal tally as Son this term for RB Leipzig
Son’s Premier League 20 is far greater than his xG rate of 13.1, seeing him go above and beyond expectations.
In comparison, Lewandowski has perfectly matched expectations, scoring 34 in the Bundesliga from an xG of 34.2, as did Salah with 22 goals and an xG of 22.4. Meanwhile, Benzema only managed to better his xG of 24.0 by two.
Antonio Conte’s side can still qualify for the Champions League and face a mouth-watering showdown with north London enemies Arsenal tonight.
With a top four spot in sight, Son will surely show no signs of relenting as his side chase Champions League and he hunts down the Golden Boot.
With the double incentive being served up on a platter, the rest of Europe’s elite better be aware – Son could be setting himself up to challenge his rivals on the Champions League stage once again next season.