lionel messi

Five favourites to win the 2020 Ballon d’Or

The most prestigious individual accolade in world football, the Ballon d’Or has largely been a two-way fight for supremacy in recent years, the duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi being broken just once over the past 13 years.

Last season saw Messi claim the award for a record sixth time, though the Argentine superstar won by the closest of margins from Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk as a new wave of players begin to challenge the elite status of the two all-time greats.

With both the European Championships and Copa America to come this summer, the player’s fortunes in major international tournaments could also prove crucial in their chances of being named as Europe’s finest player later this year.

Sadio Mane – 8/1

Liverpool’s Senegalese star has emerged as a talismanic figure for arguably the finest club side in world football at present, the forward playing a crucial role in Jurgen Klopp’s side’s record-breaking start to the Premier League season.

The club’s long wait to secure a league title looks all but a formality with the Reds currently holding a 22-point advantage over Manchester City at the top of the division, Mane likely to add the Premier League to his extensive list of honours that saw Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup success all arrive on Merseyside in 2019.

The 27-year-old had often proven to be the decisive player when Liverpool are most in need of inspiration, whilst his achievements were recognised by being named as African Footballer of the Year for the first time last year.

Should the champions-elect manage to add further silverware to their cabinet before the end of the season, Mane could become a leading contender to improve on last year’s fourth-place finishing in the Ballon d’Or.

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Kylian Mbappe – 6/1

Mbappe’s meteoric rise to the upper echelons of world football is showing no sign of slowing down, the forward the key player for both club and country despite having only recently turned 21-years-old.

Since signing for Paris Saint-Germain on a permanent basis Mbappe has now scored 48 goals in just 47 league appearances, the youngster the spearhead of a side looking to conquer both at home and abroad this season.

Ending PSG’s elusive wait for a Champions League title would likely move him into contention for the Ballon d’Or, where he would become the second-youngest ever recipient of the honour should he be named as the continent’s finest player in 2020.

World champions France also head into this summer’s European Championships as favourites, and Mbappe will be hoping to make another huge impact on the international stage having been named as the tournament’s best young player during their triumphant World Cup campaign two years ago.

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Kevin De Bruyne – 5/1

Arguably the finest player in the Premier League at present, De Bruyne continues to maintain his standards of excellence despite a mixed season for Manchester City thus far, Pep Guardiola’s side having fallen well adrift of league leaders Liverpool in the title race.

Despite his side’s struggles De Bruyne has been in scintillating form this season, scoring eight league goals and providing a further 16 assists to quickly close in on Thierry Henry’s all-time record of 20 in a single Premier League season.

City’s attentions will now turn to winning a first Champions League title, and the midfielder will be pivotal to their hopes of earning European success in the coming months.

Similarly, De Bruyne will play a hugely influential role in Belgium’s chances of winning a first major international tournament this summer, the 28-year-old a key figure for the nation currently regarded as number one in the FIFA rankings.

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Cristiano Ronaldo – 4/1

Cristiano Ronaldo has never made any secret of his desire to be recognised as the greatest footballer of all-time, so seeing Messi move one ahead of him for Ballon d’Or awards is likely to rankle with the Portuguese superstar.

The 35-year-old continues to be a goalscoring phenomenon and one of world football’s very best, recently becoming the first player in Juventus’ history to score in ten consecutive league fixtures and currently seeking to finish as top scorer in a third of Europe’s five major leagues.

The Turin side have long dominated Italian football, however, and the acquisition of Ronaldo was in the hope he could inspire the Serie A champions to European glory – Juventus currently enduring a 24-year drought without tasting Champions League success.

Should Ronaldo inspire Maurizio Sarri’s side to Europe’s biggest prize, he will firmly be in the reckoning for a record-equalling sixth Ballon d’Or, whilst he also has the chance to make further history this summer as Portugal bid to become just the second ever country to successfully defend the European Championship.

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Lionel Messi – 9/4

Can Messi extend his own record?

The Barcelona star remains world football’s finest footballing talent, scoring 19 goals and providing a further 16 assists in all competitions so far this season as the Spanish giants remain firmly in the hunt for the game’s biggest prizes.

Messi’s extraordinary levels of consistent brilliance means it is difficult for any player to wrestle away his status as the planet’s best, and the 32-year-old remains indispensable to the ambitions of both club and country.

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Barcelona will be hoping to make a huge impression on the Champions League after capitulations in the past two campaigns, whilst Messi and Argentina will have their sights set on landing an international trophy at long last – the South American giants co-hosting this summer’s Copa America.

Should either of those outcomes become an reality, it is difficult to look past Messi adding a seventh Ballon d’Or to his ever growing trophy cabinet.

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