The most prestigious individual award in modern football, the Ballon d’Or, celebrates the beautiful game’s best player from the previous year. Now it is worth noting that the Ballon d’Or is not the be-all-and-end-all of football as it has been seen by recent trends that it is often biased towards those who shine in the Champions League, have Media hype, big moments, and win trophies.
In fact, all Ballon dOr winners since 2007 have either won the Champions League or been the competition’s top goalscorer, and all since 2007 have reached at least the semi-finals stage.
We do not see an obvious standout this year, however, this summer’s international tournaments could be decisive. The Copa America and the European Championships will conclude a hectic summer for international players.
As things stand, here are the top ten leading candidates for the 2021 Ballon d’Or.
10. Erling Braut Haaland
Erling Haaland has gone from a relatively unknown teenager to one of the game’s hottest properties in the last two years. Since his move to Bundesliga club, Borussia Dortmund, the Norwegian has been truly special, scoring a staggering 53 goals in 56 appearances in all competitions.
With ten goals, Haaland is almost certainly going to be the Champions League’s top scorer for 2020/21, his main claim to the Ballon d’Or. However, he may end the season without any silverware, with just the DFB Pokal left to play for. Even then, this probably won’t be enough.
9. Phil Foden
Phil Foden has been a patient lad waiting for his opportunity to shine at Manchester City. But it has all been worth the wait, and now he’s shining in a brilliant team.
The youngster scored in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund and assisted Riyad Mahrez in the semi-finals. Big performance in the final will do wonders for him.
Being a young English talent in a big side, the hype is always going to follow him. A Champions League win with this hype should be his claim to the prize.
On the other hand, he could be overshadowed by some of the other superstars at the Etihad(but more on them later). Nonetheless, if he does well with England in the summer, he may have a decent shot.
8. Harry Kane
Speaking of Englishmen, here’s the leader of the attack line. Tottenham Hotspur has had a torrid season, but Harry Kane has never let his standards slip. The forward reached new heights this year, leading the Premier League in both goals and assists with 21 and 13 respectively. The hype is definitely there.
A great Premier League record coupled with a Euro win while captaining his England side could be a big claim for the prize.
7. Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes is in a similar position to Kane. He is having an amazing Premier League season but might end up trophyless, however, United are favorites for the Europa League, but it’s the Europa League and not the Champions League. He will likely need a triumph with Portugal at Euro 2020 to stand a chance at the Ballon d’Or.
And, if Portugal wins the tournament for the second time running, they have other stars who may take precedence. But take nothing away from United’s ‘Magnifico’, his first full season in the EPL and he has turned around United as well Ole Gunnar’s fortunes.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
Remember when we said earlier that winning Euro 2020 might not be enough for Bruno Fernandes because other Portuguese players would take precedence? Yeah, at 36 years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo is still the main man we were talking about.
Ronaldo continues to be one of the best players in the world. The forward is six goals clear in the Capocannoniere race, putting him on course for the fifth Golden Boot of his career.
However, for his sixth Ballon d’Or, he still has a long way to go considering he has missed out on both the league and Champions League.
But if he can get his hands on the Euro 2020 trophy, then he will be well among the leading candidates for the Ballon d’Or.
5. Lionel Messi
Ballon d’Or contenders and Lionel Messi are just a perfect match. It took a while for the little man to get going this season, but once he hit his stride, he was producing outrageous numbers as usual.
He has scored 36 goals in all competitions – including a brace in the Copa del Rey final – and has added a further 12 assists. And that’s not factoring in the ridiculous amount of work he does outside of direct goal contributions.
As things stand, Barcelona is looking likely to have only the Copa del Rey trophy this season. Whether he wins a seventh Ballon d’Or could all hinge on this summer’s Copa America.
4. Kevin De Bruyne
Man City has already won the Carabao Cup and the Premier League title and is in the Champions League final. Kevin De Bruyne is widely considered to be Man City’s best player. Add these two pieces of information together, and the Belgian becomes one of the favorites for the Ballon d’Or.
Also, including the fact that Belgium is one of the favorites at Euro 2020, sitting at the top of the FIFA World Rankings, he can end the season with four trophies under his belt. An excellent chance of winning the prize.
3. Robert Lewandowski
Last year’s honorary winner is back to contest for the crown. If the 32-year-old does win it this time around, it will be his exceptional numbers that earn it for him. At the time of writing, the forward has scored 39 (yep, THIRTY-NINE) league goals and seven assists in 27 appearances.
If he scores two more in his final two games, he will set a new record for most goals in a single Bundesliga season, currently held by the great Gerd Muller.
Unfortunately, a poorly timed injury could prove costly. He missed out on both Champions League quarter-final legs against Paris Saint-Germain, which Bayern Munich lost on away goals.
He may also have a hard time making an impact at Euro 2020. Playing for Poland, he is unlikely to get very far. Then again, much like Luka Modric in 2018, if he can continue to score goals and drag his side to the latter stages of the tournament, it will only strengthen his case.
2. Ruben Dias
And somehow, we might just see a Portuguese player who outshines Ronaldo. That man is Manchester City’s rock at the back, Ruben Dias.
The centre-back was brought in from Benfica last summer for a club-record fee. Dias is one of the frontrunners for the PFA Player of the Year award. He already has two trophies in the bag.
But it’s not just domestically where he has been excellent. In the Champions League, he has put in some top-class performances, keeping the likes of Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar quiet.
Premier League, Carabao Cup, PFA Player of the Year, Champions League, Euro 2020 – if Dias wins all five, it will be pretty much impossible to ignore him.
1. Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe is expected to win the Ballon d’Or at some point in his career. It could come as soon as this year. He is a frontrunner as he has done exceptionally well in the Champions League, netting a hat-trick at the Camp Nou in a 4-1 victory and converting from the penalty spot in the second leg.
His next fixture came against Bayern Munich and he scored a brace against them. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance that the 22-year-old could go trophy-less this season.
They are three points behind Lille with just two games remaining and were eliminated from the Champions League by the favorites Manchester City in the semi-finals. They’re still in the Coupe de France, but this won’t attract a lot of attention.
Mbappe is Ligue 1’s top scorer, netting 25 – six more than Memphis Depay and Wissam Ben Yedder in second.
He will also be expected to continue this form into Euro 2020.