With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America have the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game’s top individual prize.
Following club seasons either laden with trophies or padded with statistical achievements – or, in some cases, a bit of both – a few elite-level performances could make the difference in the race to win France Football’s famous award. players who could make themselves Ballon d’Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month…
These are the players who we think could make themselves Ballon d’Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month…
Kevin De Bruyne
A second successive PFA Players’ Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.
Had Pep Guardiola’s men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy, the Ballon d’Or might be De Bruyne’s already. Leading Belgium to Euros glory would probably do the job.
The other prime candidate for City’s player of the season, Ruben Dias was a colossal performer at the heart of their defence after joining from Benfica, winning the Premier League’s Player of the Season award.
Defenders’ difficulties winning big individual prizes are well documented, and the last to lift the Ballon d’Or – Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – did so after leading Italy to the World Cup.
Bruno Fernandes was heartbroken to lose the Europa League final on penalties as his wait for a trophy with Manchester United goes on.
However, a combined 46 direct goal involvements – the most of any Premier League player – means individual glory could be on the cards should Fernandes and Portugal shine.
Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.
Winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Kane is England’s undisputed star going into Euro 2020 and has every chance of topping the scoring charts again.
Arguably the popular choice for the award, N’Golo Kante won the Champions League with Chelsea after being named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final and the final against City.
France are most observers’ favourites to win the Euros and, if they do, Kante will surely be facing short odds to win the ultimate individual trophy – even if it’s one in which he has little interest.
It’s widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.
How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller’s 49-year-old single-season record. Winning the Euros with Poland might be a stretch, but finishing as top goalscorer is certainly achievable.
The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.
With eight goals in his past nine games for Belgium, the 28-year-old could well be the man to fire Roberto Martinez’s side to glory, which would make him very hard to overlook.
Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.
Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d’Or one day. The Euros could be his ticket to glory in 2021.
The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.
It wasn’t enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it does put him right in the mix. If he can finally win the Copa America with Argentina, Ballon d’Or number seven may well follow.
Even Neymar would admit he has only an outside chance of winning this year’s Ballon d’Or, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world’s most expensive footballer.
He typically produces in a Brazil shirt, though, and winning the Copa America would propel him right back into the mix for the individual prize he supposedly craves above all others.
Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.
Ronaldo won his fourth of five Ballons d’Or after Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016, and there’s little doubt he would be vying for a sixth if they defend that trophy.
Who else do you think can win the ballons d’ Or ? Let us know In the comment section.