The race for the long awaited Ballon d’Or has heated up in recent weeks, after Mohamed Salah looking like the next destination for the prestigious award for much of the campaign.
The Ballon d’Or has been mostly dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for years now, with Luka Modric’s crowning in 2018 the first not of the duo since Kaka won it in 2007.
The pair have won 12 Ballon d’Ors between them, but with neither player enjoying a hugely successful campaign with their new teams, there is no doubt that a new name will be on that trophy once again.
Over the years the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Virgil van Dijk and Neymar have all come close to claiming the award but have always been pipped to the post.
Can they do it this year? Who will be crowned the winner of the award and get the new era well and truly underway?
Here is who we believe should, or could, win the Ballon d’Or...
1/2. Karim Benzema/Mohamed Salah
The number one choice for the award is between Benzema and Salah and will depend on Liverpool’s trophy cabinet come the end of the season.
The Reds have so far won the League Cup and could still claim the quadruple and, given Salah’s goal tally this season, it would be hard not to give it to him if that happened.
The Egyptian has been regarded as the best player in the world at points this season and if he has another Premier League or Champions League title (or both) to his name then he certainly deserves his first Ballon d’Or to add to his many other accolades.
Meanwhile, Karim Benzema has been easily the best player in Europe this season, scoring 14 goals in 10 appearances.
If Real Madrid do win the Champions League then they will have the Frenchman to thank and it wouldn’t be surprising if he followed it up with the Ballon d’Or.
3. Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne has been one of the world’s best for years now and has only issue for the last couple of seasons have been his injury problems.
While the Belgian has missed out on a number of matches and was absent with an ankle injury for over a month at the start of the season, he has still kept up with some impressive stats and has been pivotal in Man City’s success this season.
De Bruyne certainly has a chance of winning the Ballon d’Or if City go on to win the Champions League, but it is very difficult to ignore the spectacular stats of the above pair.
4. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski is extremely unfortunate to not have already won a Ballon d’Or and was definitely more deserving of the award than Messi last season.
The Polish international even has a whopping 46 goals in 41 appearances, yet it’s unlikely we are going to see him come out victorious at this year’s ceremony.
While Bayern Munich have already won the Bundesliga, it is hard to ignore their disappointing exit to Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The German giants would have had to win the European competition if Lewandowski was to win the Ballon d’Or.
5. Kylian Mbappe
Like Lewandowski, Mbappe’s stats are brilliant and nobody can doubt how exceptional of a player he is.
However, it is the league that Mbappe is playing in, as well as PSG’s failure to compete in the Champions League, that lets him down.
The French club won the league again this season, but that isn’t enough to claim the award for the forward and their dramatic departure from Europe definitely hasn’t helped his cause.
If the 23-year-old joins Real Madrid in the near future then he will no doubt win the Ballon d’Or during his career.
6. Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane probably doesn’t have much chance of winning the Ballon d’Or and many people may laugh at his inclusion, but the Liverpool forward has quietly had a spectacular campaign.
The 30-year-old has 19 goals for the Reds this season and has scored some very important ones including a double in the FA Cup semi-final, the equaliser against Manchester City and the winner against West Ham.
He also helped Senegal with the Africa Cup of Nations and also saw his national team qualify for the World Cup, won the League Cup and still has the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League up for grabs.
7. Lionel Messi
Messi has had a poor season by his standards after joining PSG in the summer.
The Argentine was absent with injury following his arrival and has since only scored four goals in Ligue 1 - though he has 13 assists.
PSG’s shock exit fromthe Champions League has dented Messi’s hopes of another Ballon d’Or and there are certainly a number of more deserving footballers.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo
Like Messi, Ronaldo hasn’t enjoyed the success he had hoped when signing for a new club in the summer.
The Portugal international has definitely been one of Manchester United’s better players in what has been a terrible season, but he has failed to reach the heights that he did so often for Real Madrid and Juventus.
As well as that, Ronaldo has failed to win any silverware in a season for the first time in 12 years.