Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi falling from the Champions League in the last 16 has opened the door to a number of candidates in the race for the Ballon d’Or.
The change of era began in 2020 when the award wasn’t assigned, just with Robert Lewandowski finally seeming set to win the award. But now Juventus and Barcelona‘s declines have seen football’s two most dominant players this century out of Europe early.
The year has only just begun, but there’s every chance that neither Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo could win a trophy this season. Barcelona still in the title race and in the Copa del Rey final, while Juventus are trailing Inter and AC Milan in Serie A, but are themselves in the Coppa Italia final.
This year’s Ballon d’Or could be a definitive line in football’s history though, and both the Argentine and the Portuguese might well have already won their last Ballon d’Or.
The bookmakers have Kylian Mbappe above the rest in the race to be crowned the world’s best player. He’s one of the most coveted players in the world already, and his Camp Nou hat-trick elevated him even further.
Lewandowski comes in second place, but he’s some way behind the Frenchman. The Bayern Munich forward swept all before him last season, and he’s likely to win more silverware this season.
Erling Haaland is another monster of the new generation, and his value rises every time he steps on the pitch in the Champions League.
Neymar has been waiting patiently for years to be crowned the world’s best, but injuries are already getting in his way in 2021.
Even Luis Suarez could be a contender if he fires Atletico Madrid to the LaLiga Santander title, though he’ll likely need to help them turn their Champions League tie against Chelsea around first.
Other, less likely, possible winners include Kevin de Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes, Harry Kane.