The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious player award in Europe and the latest edition of the prize will be handed out in December to most the outstanding player across the last 12 months. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both have won the trophy on five occasions each, but who is most likely to land the prize this time around? Here is a look at the leading candidates.
Virgil van Dijk
No defender has won the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, however, there has to be a strong chance that Virgil van Dijk will be the next to do so this year as he has been outstanding for Liverpool, helping them to Champions League success.
Van Dijk is arguably the best defender in the world right now and he has made a huge difference to Jurgen Klopp’s side, who lead the way in the Premier League and look on course for another big season domestically and in Europe. The Dutchman was awarded the Man of the Match award in the Champions League final last June in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Spurs and his side are prominent in the Champions League betting at 11/2 to defend their crown once again this season.
Messi was awarded the FIFA Player of the Year award last month which could be a clue in how the Ballon d’Or will work out in December. During the 2018/19 campaign, the Barcelona forward scored 54 goals in 58 games, helping his side to La Liga success. Unfortunately for the Argentine, his national team were eliminated from Copa America by Brazil in the semi-final, while in the Champions League, Barca were beaten by Liverpool over two-legs in the semi-final. Given his goalscoring record in Europe, Messi is sure to be in contention for the Ballon d’Or once again this year.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane has established himself as one of the leading forward players in Europe over the last few years. Mane is part of the trio of forward players which have had so much success at Liverpool, with the other two being Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Mane scored 26 goals in all competitions last season, 22 of which came in the Premier League where he was joint-goalscorer at the end of the campaign. The Senegal international could be set to top that number in this latest season as he already has eight goals in 11 games. Mane has had the backing of a number of current and former players, including PSG captain Thiago Silva, who thinks the Liverpool man should win the award this year.
It is no surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo is on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or once again. The five-time winner has been a real hit in Italy for Juventus where he won Serie A in his first season with the Italian club. Ronaldo scored 28 goals last season and recently bagged his 700th goal for either club or country, an incredible record. If he does win scoop the Ballon d’Or this year, he will become the first player to win the award six times.