As the 2018/19 football season nears its conclusion, debates over who will win the Ballon d’Or is rife. Although the award takes into consideration the first half of the next season, performances in the 18/19 season will sway the eventual decision massively.
Here are the Top 5 contenders for the award based on the present betting odds.
#5. Raheem Sterling – 20/1
The 2018/19 season was the most prolific season for Raheem Sterling in front of goals as he bagged 25 goals in 51 games to beat his last season’s tally of 23 goals in 46 games.
Sterling was one of the best players in the Premier League this season and was a leading candidate to win the Player of the Year award. Although he missed out on a couple of those awards, he has voted the FWA Footballer of the Year and also named the PFA Young Player of the Year along with his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year.
The England international ended the season as a domestic treble winner with Man City in addition to bagging 25 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.
He also had a fantastic season with England, scoring six goals in his last five appearances, and he could end the season by winning the UEFA Nations League.
#4. Mohamed Salah – 15/1
Mohamed Salah was a victim of his own standards as he was overlooked for the PFA Team of the Year and PFA Player of the Year after a record-breaking 2017/18 season. Despite this, Salah ended the season with back to back Premier League Golden Boots.
Salah scored a lot of go ahead or equalising goals for Liverpool in the Premier League this season but more importantly, against Napoli, he scored a crucial goal in the final group stage game of the Champions League to send the Reds through to the knockout stage.
The Egyptian has 26 goals and 10 assists to his name in 51 games this season and he still has the Champions League final left to play. In addition, Salah also has the African Cup of Nations to look forward to in the summer and if he can win both trophies, the odds of him winning the Ballon d’Or will go up massively.
#3. Sadio Mane – 15/1
Sadio Mane’s situation is quite similar to Salah’s in many ways but unlike the Egyptian, Mane was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and he was named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Mane started the season in the usual manner but his form picked up massively in the second half of the season and that helped him leapfrog Salah for the individual awards. He has 26 goals in 49 games so far this season which makes this his best season in front of goal by a three-goal margin.
Like Salah, Mane can improve his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or by putting in a masterclass in the Champions League final and he too has the African Cup of Nations in the summer where Senegal will participate as one of the tournament favourites.
#2. Virgil van Dijk – 7/4
Even with Salah and Mane scoring a plethora of goals, the best contender from Liverpool and even the Premier League to win the Ballon d’Or is the colossus that is Virgil van Dijk.
Van Dijk cast aside any lingering doubts on why Liverpool paid a world-record fee for him with a dominating performance this season. He ended the season as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season.
He is the first defender since John Terry in 2005 to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and unsurprisingly so as he helped the Reds maintain the best defensive record in the league this season.
In 2018/19, Van Dijk has missed only 125 minutes of action in the league and Champions League combined of which he missed 90 minutes through suspension. Incredibly, while playing for Liverpool, no player has dribbled past him since 3rd March 2018!
If Liverpool wins the Champions League, it will boost Van Dijk’s chances of winning the Ballon d’Or massively. Also, the Dutchman can lead his country to UEFA Nations League glory in the summer and that’s another trophy he can lift this year.
#1. Lionel Messi – ½
Unless Kylian Mbappe can score five goals in PSG’s last league game of the season, Lionel Messi is well on course to winning his sixth European Golden Shoe which will be two more than what Cristiano Ronaldo in second place has.
Messi is having an unbelievable season for Barcelona and could end the season with three trophies. It could have been four if Barcelona reached the Champions League final but despite Messi’s best efforts, his side crumbled in the second leg of the semifinal.
The Argentine has already won the La Liga and Supercopa de España this season with the chance of adding the Copa del Rey also to the mix. He has reached 50 goals for the season in only 49 games and this is the sixth time in his career that he has scored 50 or more goals in a season. He has also bagged 19 assists in all competitions this season which includes a La Liga highest 13 assists.
Like the other four players in this list, Messi also has an international tournament to look forward to in the summer. If he can finally end the trophy curse with the national team, then there is no doubt that the Argentine will win the Ballon d’Or.