Widely regarded as the most prestigious personal accolade in world football, the Ballon d'Or is a prize that every footballer would love to get his hands on. The award has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years, with the pair winning it nine times in the past 10 years.
The two legendary attackers have won the award a staggering 11 times between them, with Lionel Messi holding the record for most Ballon d'Or triumphs in football history by getting his hands on the prize for the sixth time in 2019. The 2020 edition of the award was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, as many left that it wouldn't be a level playing field due to the circumstances involved.
Robert Lewandowski was believed to be the frontrunner for the award for his role in Bayern Munich's historic treble-winning season and will feel hard done by for missing out on the coveted prize.
With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo approaching the twilight years of their careers, who will take over the reins from the two legendary footballers? That brings us to another question - in 2025, what will the world of football look like? Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be 37 and 40 years old respectively, so they are unlikely to be in contention for the Ballon d'Or four years down the line.
There are no certainties when it comes to the beautiful game, but here are five players who could potentially win the award in the year 2025. A footballer's growth is never linear and a lot could change in the next four years, but predictions such as these will make for interesting reading a few years down the line.
#5 Ansu Fati
Ansu Fati's phenomenal rise to stardom was a bright spark in what was an underwhelming 2019-20 campaign for Barcelona. The Catalan giants finished trophyless and sacked two managers before eventually appointing Ronald Koeman at the end of the season and suffered an embarrassing 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semi-final.
However, Fati's emergence turned out to be a silver lining, as the Spanish teenager burst onto the scene and took the world by storm with his performances. He became the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona's history and quickly made his mark in Europe, as he notched up goals in the UCL and also received his first international cap for Spain.
The 18-year-old has the world at his feet and could be in contention for the biggest prize if he carries on developing at a steady rate.
#4 Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has made the world take notice of him with his goalscoring exploits and is likely to seal a big-money move to one of Europe's biggest clubs in the coming years. The Norwegian striker already has 20 goals in 16 appearances in the UEFA Champions League and is all set to break several goalscoring records over the course of his career.
Known for his finishing ability, predatory instinct and movement in and around the penalty area, Haaland is deceptively quick for someone of his stature and is one of the most feared strikers in the world.
Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea have thrown their hats out for his signature and it remains to be seen where he lands up.
#3 Kylian Mbappe
Much like Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe has the world at his feet and has already won a handful of personal and individual accolades in his young career so far. The Paris Saint-Germain attacker has won four Ligue 1 titles and also played a starring role in France's FIFA World Cup triumph in 2018, as he picked up the Silver Ball for his outstanding displays.
Mbappe has his heart set on a move to Real Madrid and it remains likely that he will get his wish in the coming years. Los Blancos view him as a player who could ply his trade for the club for many years to come and are looking to snap him up at some point in the next 12 months.
If he carries on performing like this, Mbappe is sure to get his hands on the Ballon d'Or in the coming years.
#2 Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk came ever so close to winning the Ballon d'Or in 2019, as he lost out to Lionel Messi by a few votes in what proved to be one of the closest finishes in the award's history. The Dutchman is one of the most talented defenders of his generation and was named UEFA Player of the Year in 2019, while he also picked up the PFA Player of the Year award earlier that year.
He is currently 29 years old, but defenders usually tend to play well into their 30s, with Sergio Ramos and Giorgio Chiellini classic examples of the same. Van Dijk has been imperious since his world-record move to Liverpool and could well become the first defender since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 to get his hands on the award.
The towering Dutchman has been praised by legends of the game like Franz Beckenbauer and Franco Baresi for putting defenders on the map again. If he recovers well from his ACL injury and hits and ground running for Liverpool, it would be unwise to bet against him competing for the Ballon d'Or again.
Hailed as one of the most talented footballers of his generation, Neymar was the chosen one to take over the reins after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While his career has stagnated a little bit due to injuries, he is still one of the best players in the world when fully fit and has won several personal as well as individual honors for Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil.
Neymar is just 29 now and has time on his side to win the Ballon d'Or in the coming years. The mercurial Brazilian could finally get his hands on the prize if he manages to spearhead Paris Saint-Germain to their first-ever UEFA Champions League crown, while winning another major trophy with Brazil would also enhance his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or.