The 2019 Ballon d’Or winner is set to be announced on Monday night, but who will win this year’s prestigious award is anybody’s guess.
Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk have been named as the front runners with the latter’s claim coming through his role in helping Liverpool winning the Champions League and leading the Premier League. Cristiano Ronaldo, as always, is also in the running.
Even beyond those three, this is a list stacked with absolutely world-class talent which, at face value, looks very difficult to separate.
However, that is exactly what must happen if we’re going to get a winner. So, to try and get an idea of exactly who is among the favourites – and who shouldn’t trouble them – we’ve taken up the task of ranking every single candidate on this year’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.
So, which players are dark horses? Could we have another surprise choice like Luka Modric? Who has been included on the list simply to make up the numbers? And who has the greatest chance of knocking Messi and Ronaldo off their perch?
30. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
The Spurs captain has come in for his fair share of flak this season – prior to his injury – and parts of last term, but he was nonetheless a key component of Spurs’ sensational route to their first-ever Champions League final.
29. Marquinhos (PSG)
The Brazilian was imperious at the back as PSG cantered to another Ligue 1 title, while he also starred as his nation lifted the Copa America on home soil over the summer.
28. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
It may not be smooth sailing at this present moment for the Lilywhites, but Son has been one of the key players under Mauricio Pochettino and now Jose Mourinho – not to mention his role in helping Tottenham reach the European final in Madrid.
27. Joao Felix (Benfica/Atletico Madrid)
Felix helped Benfica to a Primeira Liga title last season, with his attacking prowess culminating in him clinching the league’s Best Young Player of the Year. The precocious forward also helped Portugal win the inaugural Nations League, while he has already started to produce for Atleti this season.
26. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
The Senegal international helped Napoli to second in the league last season, picking up the Serie A ‘Best Defender’ accolade in the process, while he was also influential as his nation reached this year’s Africa Cup of Nations final. He was subsequently named in Afcon’s Team of the Tournament as Senegal claimed the Fair play award.
25. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/Barcelona)
The Frenchman has ranked third in two of the last three Ballon d’Ors but has slipped to 25th in our ranking. He excelled once again for Atleti last campaign, but is yet to truly hit the ground running in the immaculate Blaugrana strip. He recently netted in France’s final Euro 2020 qualifier to ensure the nation topped Group H.
24. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
It wasn’t always easy for Mahrez during his maiden campaign at the Etihad, but he still managed to play a key role as Pep Guardiola’s side sauntered to two domestic cups and just about pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title. The skilful winger was also a prominent figure in Algeria’s 2019 Afcon triumph.
23. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
De Bruyne had ill-luck with injury problems last season but still managed to rack up 11 assists and six goals across all competitions. He has started this season like a house on fire, so far creating more chances in the Premier League than any other player (52).
22. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)
Such was Van de Beek’s stellar form that he almost guided Ajax to an unlikely Champions League final, though it just wasn’t to be. He will be remembered fondly for scoring goals against Juventus and Spurs, while also bagging a further 13 domestically as the Amsterdammers secured a Eredivisie and KNVB Cup double.
21. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
The dynamic Reds midfielder was sensational in Jurgen Klopp’s well-oiled machine, famously netting a brace as Liverpool defied the odds to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League. He has gone from strength to strength since signing from Newcastle and put in a fine performance as Liverpool lifted another European crown.
20. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
The diminutive delight deservedly claimed Man City’s Player of the Year award and found his way into the Premier League Team of the Year. His majestic showings yielded 14 direct goal contributions as City clinched back-to-back league titles last term, while he was also paramount in the club’s League Cup and FA Cup triumphs.
19. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Manuel Neuer may be entering his twilight years, but German national coach Joachim Low needn’t worry, as he has a more than adequate successor waiting in the wings. Ter Stegen was formidable as Barca won La Liga last term and he came a close second in The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper award.
18. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Aubameyang has been a beacon of prosperity in an otherwise tumultuous few months for the capital club. The Arsenal captain clinched the Golden Boot last season and is already doing his best in the fight to retain the coveted gong with 10 league goals to his name so far.
17. Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid)
Hazard’s parting gift to Chelsea fans was more European glory, and few can have any complaints about that. The Belgian marvel was simply on another planet last term, netting 16 goals and registering 15 assists as the Blues finished third in the league. He won the Europa League Player of the Season award and unsurprisingly Chelsea’s Player of the Year crown. Though he is yet to really get going in Madrid.
16. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Mbappe was electric last season as PSG clinched a fifth Ligue 1 title in six years, scoring 39 goals across all competitions, including 33 in the French top-flight which brought about a top scorer award. His fine form in front of goal also secured him the Ligue 1 Player of the Year title.
15. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Not many were expecting it but Benzema has been an absolute monster this year, flourishing in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. He netted 30 goals across all competitions last term, which is some achievement when you consider the chaos that surrounded Los Blancos across the entire campaign.
14. Alisson (Liverpool)
The Liverpool shot-stopper has been immaculate between the sticks this year, helping Liverpool to a sixth European crown, as well as taking home the Premier League Golden Glove, Copa America Golden Glove and being named FIFA’s The Best Men’s Goalkeeper.
13. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
It has been another extraordinary year for City’s goalscoring fulcrum, with the Argentina international so far netting 21 league goals while registering a further five assists. The domestic treble wouldn’t have been made possible without Aguero, who has already slotted home 13 times in 16 games this season.
12. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Under Guardiola’s tutelage Sterling has accelerated his final third devastation, and in 2019 he has taken his game to new heights, so far amassing 16 league goals, while proving the catalyst in City’s silverware bonanza last term.
11. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Lewandowski has performed with distinction this year, proving one of, if not, the world’s best out and out striker. His all-round finishing has been breathtaking, so far scoring 27 goals in 21 games for the Bavarians across all competitions this season.
10. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
When he parted company with Southampton, few in the Premier League batted an eyelid, but what a signings the versatile forward has proven to be for Ajax. Incredibly, Tadic netted 38 goals and notched 24 assists last season as the Dutch outfit reached the Champions League semi-final.
9. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
The Brazilian may not be the trusty source of goals at Anfield, but his influence in Klopp’s XI is just as important as his attacking teammates. His unique role in the final third has almost revolutionised what it means to be a No. 9. Firmino followed up a Champions League triumph by scooping the Copa America with Brazil.
8. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus)
The former recipient of the Golden Boy award was the chief policeman in Ajax’s watertight defence, meanly locking the backline as Ajax competed fiercely on three fronts. De Ligt was named Dutch Footballer of the Year and found a place in the FIFA FIFPro WorldXI for his help in Ajax’s domestic success and run to the Champions League semi-final.
7. Frenkie de Jong (Ajax/Barcelona)
If Tadic was the reliable goal-getter, De Ligt the defensive talisman, then De Jong was the inspiration. The elegant Dutch metronome oiled the wheels that kept Erik ten Hag’s side rolling smoothly. Without him, Ajax would not have been able to overcome European giants Real Madrid and Juventus.
6. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Alexander-Arnold was in awe-inspiring form last season, proving almost a playmaker at right-back. His driving runs and pinpoint deliveries guided Liverpool to European supremacy, oh and let’s not forgot that improvised corner against Barca.
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It has been another tremendous year for the Egyptian ace, scoring at sheer will, clinching another Premier League Golden Boot and a Champions League medal. He has already picked up from where he left off last season and has catapulted Liverpool to a strong position in this season’s title race.
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Mane completed the Golden Boot trident last season, netting an impressive 22 goals as Liverpool finished second. He won the decisive penalty against Spurs in the Champions League final, guided Senegal to an Afcon final and already has eight league goals to his name this term.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Ronaldo may be 34 but he is showing no signs of slowing down. The Portuguese phenom has consistently maintained his world class level this year – for club and country. This has been his most productive return for Portugal in a single year – 14 goals – while he also helped inspire his nation to the first-ever Nations League trophy, as well as clinching a Scudetto for Juve and making yet another FIFA FIFPro WorldXI.
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
No player has scored more La Liga goals in 2019 than Messi (29), who currently leads the way for most goals across Europe’s top five league as well this year. He won his 10th La Liga title last season and will be hoping to add a sixth Ballon d’Or to his trophy cabinet.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Not since 2006 has a defender won the Ballon d’Or but surely that trend will end this year? Van Dijk has taken Liverpool to new heights, with his defensive showings culminating in a Champions League final clean sheet, as well as Liverpool conceding just 22 goals in the league last season. The Dutchman is the complete package and has been the star of the show in 2019.