Ballon d'Or 2020: Top 5 contenders for the award if football ends this year due to Coronavirus
- A rundown of the top five favorites for the 2020 Ballon d'Or to this point.
- There is a possibility that the season might end prematurely. These five players deserve to win the Ballon d'Or.
It is no longer news that the entire footballing world has been on lockdown due to the deadly Coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe, with many leagues suspended indefinitely until a time when the safety of fans and players can be guaranteed.
With government officials and health practitioners struggling to contain the spread of the virus - which, at last count, was present in 120 countries and has affected almost 200,000 people - football has understandably taken a backseat, with the health of the general populace of more concern.
Although tentative dates for resumption of football activities have been given, there is no guarantee that this season would be played out to its completion and some league administrators have started seeking contingencies in the event of an unfinished league campaign.
There is a possibility that the rest of the year could be seen out without football and while it might be difficult to fathom, it is the only course of action if the beautiful game represents a threat to human safety.
While this could have severe impacts on handing out individual prizes like the Ballon d'Or, there are still some players who deserve to be in the reckoning regardless of how the rest of the year pans out.
Here, we shall be having a rundown of the five players who are most deserving of the 2020 Ballon d'Or even if no football is kicked for the rest of the year, taking into account their performances over the season, with emphasis from November to date.
Honorable mentions: Erling Haaland, Ciro Immobile, Serge Gnabry
#5 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Last December, Lionel Messi made history as the first man to win the Ballon d'Or six times when he pipped nearest challenger Virgil Van Dijk to the award but neither he nor his club has been having the best of seasons to this point.
The Argentine maestro is still as decisive as ever and Barcelona are still heavily dependent on him but Messi has performed at levels beneath his significant best and with just under two months to go in the season, the Rosario native finds himself in the unfamiliar position of being out of the discussion for the European Golden Shoe.
With 24 goals and 16 assists in all competitions, this is far from a bad season for the Argentine international but when you consider that Ciro Immobile has 27 goals in just the Serie A alone, you begin to see the bigger picture.
A foot injury played a key role in hampering his season but since November, Messi has weighed in with 17 goals and nine assists from 21 matches, although his goals have come in fits and bursts and he had to endure a four-game goalless drought between January and February before scoring four in the rout of Eibar.
Knowing his extraterrestrial abilities, he cannot be counted out and if he can fire Barcelona to both league and Champions League glory, Messi would find himself much higher on this list.
#4 Neymar (PSG)
PSG failed to make it past the Champions League round-of-16 in each of the last three seasons and it is no coincidence that they did so for the first time of asking with Neymar present in both legs.
The Brazilian international was signed to bring the Holy Grail to the French capital but a combination of injuries and unprofessionalism saw him miss out on the previous Champions League knockout fixtures, with his side struggling badly in his absence.
This season, Thomas Tuchel wisely managed his star man's rib injury, knowing that he was needed for the crunch stages on the continent and the former Barcelona man justified this decision, churning out arguably his best performance in a PSG shirt to eliminate the high-flying Dortmund from the competition.
The 28-year-old had a hand in all three of PSG's goals, scoring the crucial away goal in Germany while opening the scoring in the return leg and instigating the move that led to the second to ensure the Parisians progressed to the quarterfinal for the first time since 2016.
Neymar has also been in fine form domestically in the last five months, scoring nine and assisting six from 10 Ligue 1 matches to help PSG run riot in the French league.
#3 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Over the last few years, a common theme emerged in Cristiano Ronaldo's career, with the Portuguese icon usually saving his best for the Champions League, while just trudging along domestically and this was particularly true in the final stages of his Real Madrid career.
However, this season, the reverse is the case and the Madeira native has been the major driving force behind Juventus' quest for a ninth consecutive Scudetto, while not entirely blazing on the continent.
With just two goals and one assist from seven Champions League matches, Ronaldo has struggled to recapture the magic that made him dominate the competition but his league form has been nearly immaculate.
The 35-year-old has scored 21 goals from 22 Serie A matches and this feat is made all the more impressive when you consider that heading into November, he had just five goals from 10 matches and his form was heavily criticized in the media.
It all changed after the narrow victory over AC Milan that saw Ronaldo substituted early and he returned from the international break in revamped form, going on a scoring streak that saw him net 16 goals in his next 11 matches in a row, equalling the Serie A record for most matches scored in consecutively.
The run came to an end in the 2-0 victory over Inter Milan and if the Champions League returns, Juventus would fancy their chances of overturning their deficit to Lyon with their talisman in their ranks, which would, in turn, boost his chances of winning a sixth Ballon d'Or.
#2 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Robert Lewandowski once joked that he was addicted to scoring and with a record like his, Bayern Munich would hope his addiction in front of the goal continues for a very long time.
This season, the 31-year-old has been nothing short of exceptional, with his 39 goals from just 33 matches in all competitions significantly more than anyone else has managed in the top divisions of Europe.
He has been particularly lethal in the Champions League, where he currently leads the scorers' chart with 11 goals from just six matches, having scored in every match he has participated in thus far and Chelsea were his latest victims, with a goal and two assists condemning the Londoners to a harrowing defeat on their own turf.
A shinbone injury has ruled him out of Bayern's last two fixtures but the enforced break from footballing activities would enable the Polish international to return fitter and better to lead his side to a potential treble if the season resumes.
#1 Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
Having sat out most of last season due to injury, a fully fit Kevin de Bruyne has returned to what he does best -- dictating the tempo of matches and acting as the orchestrator of his team's attacking play with his vision, precise passing, and accurate crossing.
The 28-year-old has been the standout player in the Premier League this season and is on course to break Thierry Henry's long-standing record for most assists and even though Manchester City have not had the best of times domestically, their Belgian playmaker has been in a class of his own and is the favorite to be named PFA Player of the Year.
Six goals and eight assists have been recorded in 14 Premier League matches since November, while another Man-of-the-Match display condemned Real Madrid to defeat in the Champions League and put City on the brink of qualification.
Beyond the numbers, what stands out the most about de Bruyne is the ease with which he controls matches and if the former Wolfsburg man is in top form, there is hardly anything opposition players can do about it, with commanding performances against Arsenal and Leicester City in December buttressing this fact.Published 17 Mar 2020, 12:21 IST