The Liverpool centre-back is a favourite to be named the Ballon d’Or winner ahead of the Barcelona superstar and Portuguese forward
Luka Modric winning the Ballon d’Or in 2018 broke the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi Ballon d’Or dominance over the last 10 years, but will it be for good?
Ronaldo and Messi have both won five apiece, but they are still favourites to lift it again this year – though another upset could be pulled by Liverpool and Netherlands star Virgil van Dijk, who was awarded the PFA Player of the Season award and has been a pivotal figure for Liverpool in their successful Champions League campaign.
The 2018-19 campaign saw the end of the Ronaldo/Messi rivalry in La Liga after the Portugal international completed a summer move to Juventus from Real Madrid, and predictions for the Ballon d’Or award seemed to rest on whoever won the Champion League. Both Messi and Ronaldo had cited winning the UCL as their main target for the season – the Argentine said so himself in his captain’s speech before the season and Ronaldo was bought by Juventus to guide them to European glory – but their hopes were dashed, and had respectively disappointing seasons despite winning their domestic leagues.
Liverpool being crowned European champions has made centre-back Van Dijk a firm favourite (with odds of 4/6 according to Oddschechker at the time of writing to be crowned the Ballon d’Or winner this year ahead of Messi and Ronaldo.
The Netherlands star has been instrumental in Liverpool’s UCL victory this year, and was of course pivotal during their 4-0 win over Barcelona in the semi-finals. The only thing that would work against him, however, is the fact that the Ballon d’Or is very rarely awarded to a centre-back, with Fabio Cannavaro the last defender to win the Ballon d’Or in 2016 after winning the World Cup for Italy and lifting the Serie A title in Juventus colours.
Van Dijk missing out on the Nations League trophy with the Netherlands, losing to Portugal in the final, could also prove to be detrimental.
Messi is a favourite to win his sixth Ballon d’Or with odds of 11/10, despite losing out on the UCL and Copa del Rey and only lifting the La Liga trophy with Barcelona. He did, however, win the European Golden Shoe with 36 goals and success with Argentina this summer in Copa America would strongly boost his chances.
The Barcelona star’s best chance of winning the Ballon d’Or again will be if he takes Argentina far in the Copa America, which is widely regarded as his final tournament with his national team. If he is able to win his first major honour with his country, he will likely be a clear favourite for the award ahead of Van Dijk.
Juventus star Ronaldo had a similarly disappointing season on a personal level, having finished the season as his club’s top scorer but not the top scorer in Serie A, but remains 16/1 odds to win the Ballon d’Or for a sixth time. The striker, like Messi, did lift the league title, but his missing out on the UCL trophy could also hinder his chances. But in tandem with Van Dijk, Ronaldo leading his country to the Nations League trophy in June could put him into the running again ahaead of his Argentina rival.
Mohamed Salah has odds of 18/1 to win his first Ballon d’Or, also in the wake of his Champions League success with Liverpool. The Egypt international finished the domestic season as winners of the Golden Boot, tied with Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Harsh critics will say that his second season at Anfield wasn’t as successful as his debut, netting 27 goals compared to 44 strikes in his first season, but winning the Champions League should be the difference-maker. Success with Egypt in the African Cup of Nations this summer should also do well to boost his chances.
Ballon d’Or 2019 outsiders
Similarly, Salah’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane is in the same boat and has odds of 25/1 of winning the Ballon d’Or. He, too, will have his UCL winners’ medal to his advantage as well as another impressive season with the Reds and if Senegal goes far in the AFCON, he will have improved chances of winning.
Raheem Sterling is also backed at odds of 25/1 to be crowned the Ballon d’Or winner, along with Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe. The Manchester City winger lifted the domestic treble under Pep Guardiola and had an incredible season, and also captained England for this first time as the Three Lions secured third place at the Nations League.
Hazard was Chelsea’s standout performer by a mile in his last season at the club and guided his team to the Europa League, third place in the Premier League and runners-up in the Carabao Cup final.
He was awarded for his impressive campaign for Chelsea with an 88 million pounds moves to Real Madrid in the summer though it could be another season or two until Hazard emerges as a true contender for the Ballon d’Or – depending on how he performs with Los Blancos.
Paris Saint-Germain and France star Mbappe is another favourite for the Ballon d’Or a year after he lifted the World Cup, though his club’s failure to go far in the UCL – knocked out by Man Utd in the round of 16 – could affect his chances. He finished the domestic season as Ligue 1’s top scorer, but also lost out on the French Cup.
Gabriel Jesus is priced at odds of 50/1 to win the Ballon d’Or after winning the league, FA Cup and Carabao Cup with Manchester City.
Tottenham and France shot-stopper Hugo Lloris has odds of 66/1, though he remains a clear outsider having lost the UCL final to Liverpool and finishing in fourth place in the Premier League.
Liverpool and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson also has odds of 66/1, having won the UCL in his debut season with the Reds and winning the 2018/19 Golden Glove award for keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League. He was also the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a UCL final since 2010.
Man City superstar Sergio Aguero emerged as a contender to put pressure on the competition and is also priced at 50/1 to win the award following his impressive season for his club, breaking Alan Shearer’s record for the most hat-tricks for a Premier League side.
The likes of Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain are firm outsiders, backed at odds of 80/1, while players such as Willian, Angel Di Maria, James Rodriguezand Romelu Lukaku are all priced at 100/1 .
Neymar is not considered a strong contender, also backed at odds of 100/1, following a disappointing season with PSG where he spent most of the campaign on the sidelines and missing the entirety of Brazil’s Copa America campaign due to injury.
Antoine Griezmann has odds of 250/1 to win following the announcement that he would be leaving Atletico Madrid this summer, after he finished third in last year’s votes.