Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award in football, given at the end of the year to the player who is considered to have performed the best over the year.
Last year, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s decade long dominance over the distinguished award was broken by Ronaldo’s former teammate, Luka Modric. However, this year, the Croatian international has been struggling to reach the heights of last year and is currently not in the running for the award.
A number of fresh faces have emerged as the contenders to win the award this season and here are the current three favourites.
#3 Bernardo Silva
The Portuguese international joined Manchester City for £43 million from AS Monaco in the summer transfer window of 2018 and remained as the second fiddle to Kevin de Bruyne for the majority of his debut season.
However, the Belgian’s injury last season gave him the chance to take the centre-stage at the club, which he accepted with both hands. The 24-year old featured in 36 Premier League games last campaign and managed to score seven goals along with seven assists.
His wonderful performances during the course of the 2018-19 season earned him the Manchester City Player of the Season accolade, together with a place in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season.
Former AS Monaco star also played a vital role in Portugal’s UEFA Nations Cup triumph and was awarded the Player of the Tournament award.
#2 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was in a superb form throughout the 2018-19 season and led Barcelona to their fifth LaLiga title in the last seven years. The Argentine international scored 36 goals in the 34 league last season, which earned him the LaLiga Golden Shoe, along with his sixth European Golden Shoe.
The 32-year-old also won the Champions League Golden Shoe, after scoring 12 goals in 10 games. He was also the part of the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season.
However, Argentina’s failure in the Copa America could prove to a be a major setback in his quest for the sixth Ballon d’Or title
#1 Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk brilliantly marshalled Liverpool’s back-line throughout the 2018-19 season and led the Reds to their first UEFA Champions League success in 14 years.
The Merseysiders also registered their highest ever points tally in the Premier League last season and Virgil van Dijk played a crucial role in it. His performances last campaign earned him the PFA Player of the Season award, together with the inclusion in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year and Champions League Team of the Year.
The former Southampton man was also among the star performers in Netherlands’ run to the final of the UEFA Nations Cup, where they lost 1-0 to Portugal.
The 27-year old is in a strong position to win the Ballon d’Or this season and could become the first defender to achieve that feat since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.