The awarding of the prize was cancelled in 2020 and the world’s best players are again making their cases to claim the coveted individual honour
After being cancelled in 2020, the Ballon d’Or is back, with the great and good of the football world again eyeing the biggest individual honour the game has to offer.
Although the prize will not be handed out until December, performances over the coming weeks will go a long way to deciding who will and won’t be in contention to succeed 2019 winner Lionel Messi.
With the European domestic season over with and summer tournaments still to come, the world’s best players are beginning to come to the fore.
So, by using their performances so far, as well as predictions of what is likely still to come in 2021, who holds the most power in this year’s race?
Goal ranks the runners and riders…
#20 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 20th
In 2021: Eight goals, six assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Neymar is back in Brazil preparing for the Selecao’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers, with the Copa America set to follow barring a late cancellation amid rising coronavirus cases in host country Argentina.
#19 Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: 23 goals, 10 assists. Won Europa League.
Because of who he plays for, Moreno’s supreme form over the course of 2021 has gone almost unnoticed outside of Spain.
However, after netting in the Europa League final as Villarreal upset Manchester United, he could yet become one of the stars of the summer.
The 29-year-old will, in all likelihood, start for La Roja at Euro 2020, and if he fires them to glory, who is to say he could not secure a top 10 finish (at least) in the Ballon d’Or race?
#18 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 18th
In 2021: Six goals, 15 assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.
For the first time since 2018, Muller is back in the Germany fold as their preparations for Euro 2020 got under way this week.
Expect the Bayern Munich star to be back in Joachim Low’s starting line-up by the time the tournament gets going.
#17 Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 17th
In 2021: 12 goals, 12 assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
There still seems to be some debate over whether Sancho will make England’s final 26-man Euro 2020 squad, but surely his form since the turn of the year means he cannot be left out, doesn’t it?!
#16 Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
Last time: 16th
In 2021: 13 goals, two assists. Won La Liga.
After guiding Atletico the Liga title, Suarez’s attentions now turn to winning the second Copa America of his career with Uruguay, 10 years on from his only previous success at the tournament.
#15 Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Last time: 15th
In 2021: 19 goals, five assists.
With the debate over his future set to fade into the background for the next few weeks, attention for Kane now turns to guiding England to a first European Championship title, with the final set to be played at Wembley Stadium.
#14 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Last time: 13th
In 2021: 14 goals, nine assists.
Fernandes’ wait for a first trophy in Manchester goes on as United’s tepid performance in Gdansk saw them defeated on penalties by Villarreal in the Europa League final.
This could still be a memorable summer for the midfield schemer, however, with Portugal among the favourites at Euro 2020.
#13 Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Last time: 19th
In 2021: Nine goals, three assists. Won Champions League.
This time two years ago, Mount was part of a Derby County team that were beaten in the Championship play-off final. Now, he is a key player in a Champions League-winning team.
His sublime pass to set up Kai Havertz’s winning CmaTrends against Manchester City cemented his place among the best young midfielders in world football, and Euro 2020 should offer another opportunity for the 22-year-old to show what he is all about.
#12 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Last week: 10th
In 2021: 15 goals, six assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
The decision to play Gundogan, City’s top scorer this season, as a defensive midfielder in the Champions League final will likely haunt Pep Guardiola and City fans for the next few months, as their European dreams went up in smoke in Porto.
Now the Germany midfielder, who has played just 60 minutes of tournament football for his country, will be looking to put more of a stamp on Euro 2020.
#11 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 11th
In 2021: 24 goals, nine assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
Unlike the majority of players on this list, Haaland is already enjoying his summer holidays after Norway’s failure to qualify for Euro 2020.
He was, however, confirmed this week as being the top scorer in this season’s Champions League, with the Dortmund star picking up another award to add to his ever-growing collection.
#10 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Last time: 12th
In 2021: 21 goals, three assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Ronaldo needs seven goals this summer to break the record for the most scored by a man in international football – but can he get over the line in front of a worldwide audience?
And if he does, is that enough to catapult him back into the Ballon d’Or race?
#9 Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Last time: 9th
In 2021: 11 goals, seven assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
It was not to be for Foden, who was unable to celebrate his 21st birthday by winning the Champions League a day later.
He heads back to England knowing, though, that a starting berth is likely his for the Three Lions at Euro 2020.
#8 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 8th
In 2021: 18 goals, four assists.
Pictures of Benzema and Kylian Mbappe training together ahead of Euro 2020 began to circulate this week in what was likely a warning shot to the rest of the continent for the summer.
There are few teams with more firepower going into the tournament, but can Didier Deschamps’ side go one better than they did at Euro 2016?
#7 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
Last time: 6th
In 2021: 17 goals, seven assists. Won Serie A.
After leading Inter to Serie A glory, Lukaku’s future now looks to be up in the air again following Antonio Conte’s departure from San Siro.
A few goals in leading Belgium to Euro 2020 glory would likely add a few million to his already lofty price tag.
#6 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Last time: 4th
In 2021: One CmaTrends, 17 clean sheets. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Dias’ status as the season’s outstanding defender is not up for debate, but he will not end the campaign as a European champion after City’s defeat on Saturday.
Like so many others on this list, he will be looking to help guide Portugal to back-to-back European Championship titles this summer.
#5 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Last time: 5th
In 2021: 28 goals, nine assists. Won Copa del Rey.
Until his future is confirmed one way or another, all the transfer talk this summer will likely centre around Messi and whether he truly will leave Barcelona.
It is easy to forget, though, that he could yet be set to win a Copa America on home soil. Doing so would put him right in the mix for a seventh Ballon d’Or come December.
#4 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 2nd
In 2021: Nine goals, eight assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
The sight of a tearful De Bruyne departing the Champions League final early in the second half was a tough one to take for footballs fans everywhere, and hopefully his injuries are not so serious to be an issue at Euro 2020.
Presuming he is fit, he is likely to be more driven than ever to guide Belgium to the title. The rest of Europe has been warned.
#3 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 3rd
In 2021: 31 goals, four assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.
Stranger things have happened than Poland winning the European Championship, and with the continent’s premier No.9 leading the line, no one will be taking them for a soft touch this summer.
#2 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 1st
In 2021: 28 goals, four assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
If Mbappe scores the goals to win Euro 2020 for France this summer, then he will likely be a deserving winner of the Ballon d’Or.
Right now, though, the prevailing wind is with another, and the rankings must recognise when a campaign is beginning to build up steam…
#1 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Last time: 7th
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League.
Being named Man of the Match in both legs of a Champions League semi-final and the final is almost unheard of.
Doing it as a defensive-minded midfielder is close to impossible.
Kante specialises in producing the seemingly impossible, however, and combine those performances with another MOTM-winning display against Atletico Madrid in the last 16, and he will likely be regarded as the player of the tournament when all is said and done.
He now has a great chance of adding a European Championship wnners’ medal to his collection this summer, is one of the most popular players on the planet and, after Saturday, has turned up in the biggest of all spots.
Can anyone stop Kante from claiming the biggest individual prize of them all?