Which players have a realistic chance of winning the Ballon d'Or in 2019?
The reign of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi finally came to an end at the Ballon d'Or as Luka Modric won the prestigious award in 2018. It was the first time since 2007 that someone apart from them had got to hold the trophy aloft.
Ronaldo finished second and Antonine Griezmann finished third. Kylian Mbappe was ranked fourth for leading his country to a World Cup victory. Messi followed him, and Mohamed Salah followed Messi.
Raphael Varane, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane were also part of the top 10. Neymar and Luis Suarez are two big names who missed out on the top 10.
Having said that, I believe next season will be completely different. With no World Cup to look forward to, the majority of the players will be judged on the basis of their league and Champions League performances.
With that in mind, here's a look at the realistic candidates for the Ballon d'Or next season.
The players who will likely miss out
I believe Eden Hazard has very little chance of winning the award next season. This is not due to his performances, as I believe individually he is going to have his best season ever. But unfortunately for him, Chelsea are not in the Champions League, and that alone removes him from contention. Kante too will likely not make it to the shortlist for the same reason.
I do not believe that Harry Kane stands a chance of winning the award. I don't think Tottenham have what it takes to win the Champions League or the Premier League, and so I don't think anyone from Tottenham is in the running.
I also believe that no one from Real Madrid is going to win the Ballon d'Or, so Modric, Kroos, Bale and Benzema are ruled out. They have had a woeful start to the domestic season, and Champions League glory is also questionable based on what we have seen so far.
From Barcelona, I do not think Suarez has a chance at the award.
The players who have a chance
If PSG can finally put together a run in the Champions league, then Neymar and Mbappe have a chance of winning the award. They are expected to win the domestic league and so their performance relies entirely on their Champions League performance. I see them going till the semi-finals if the draw is favorable, and so I would not rule out either of them.
Another player who I think stands a chance is Griezmann. Atletico Madrid are competing with Barcelona for the LaLiga, and they are also in the Champions League. With their pragmatic approach and star-studded squad, I believe they have a good chance of winning silverware this season. That itself gives Griezmann an opportunity to compete for the award.
I believe that multiple players from Manchester City stand a chance of winning the award. While De Bruyne has been injured, when fit he is a joy to watch. If City have a deep run in the Champions League I expect him to be in contention for the award.
I also see Sergio Aguero with a chance at the award. City are favourites for the Premier League, and if team success is coupled with a great individual season, Aguero would have a good shot.
I do not believe that Sterling, David Silva or Bernardo Silva are going to make it, but I would not completely write them off.
From Liverpool it's Salah. I do not think Liverpool will be able to go all the way again, but if they do, he may win it all.
Finally, I have to mention Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. I firmly believe that if either of them wins the Champions League with their respective teams, they would deserve the award. If Ronaldo wins the Champions League again, he would have won it with 3 different teams. Added to that Juventus are expected to run away with the domestic league.
Messi has been having a great season so far. Any sort of team success should put him in contention. I am sure that he will not finish 5th again in the Champions League.
The predicted top 5
I believe that this will be the Top 5 at the end of the year -
1. Lionel Messi
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
3. Kylian Mbappe / Neymar
4. Kevin De Bryne / Sergio Aguero
5. Mohamed Salah
This is merely my opinion and is not based on any stats. The ranking is made on the assumption that Barcelona win the Champions League.