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VERONA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 08:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus  celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between Hellas Verona and  Juventus at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on February 8, 2020 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Pictures

Yearly since 2017, B/R Soccer has break up the 12 months into fours and run Ballon d’Or rankings after each quarter.

The aim? To gauge gamers’ calendar-year performances and statistics, then create an knowledgeable shortlist of who might need put themselves within the working for the award. It’s, primarily, “if the Ballon d’Or was awarded now, who would get it?” 

In a typical 12 months, it solely kinds a sliver of the image—notably the March version—as there’s a lot extra soccer to be performed, and nearly all of the deciding components (Champions League finals, worldwide trophies) are nonetheless to come back.

However with the coronavirus pandemic shutting soccer down world wide for the foreseeable future—even sparking questions over whether or not the season will end in any respect—the interval we have simply accomplished might be extra necessary than ever.

Earlier than scrolling down, it is price reminding your self of a key distinction in the case of this award: The Ballon d’Or is a calendar-year award, so now we have taken into consideration solely what has occurred from January to now. No matter occurred within the first half of the season, in 2019, is irrelevant and never thought of.

     

15. Sadio Mane, Liverpool

Mane’s 2020 aim/help output has dropped a bit of, however that is deceiving. He is nonetheless the epicentre of the assault, creating, conjuring and affecting, and he has been Liverpool’s finest performer this 12 months.

     

14. Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich

After a few subpar years, and even some questions over his future at Bayern, Muller has returned to elite degree. That is one of the best we have seen from him since Pep Guardiola’s time in Munich throughout the mid-2010s; 5 targets and 5 assists in 2020 underline his resurgence.

       

13. Casemiro, Actual Madrid

Casemiro is enjoying one of the best soccer of his profession and fulfilling three roles without delay: destroyer (his forte), creator (a more recent improvement) and assist striker (he is making extra runs into the field than ever). He is their MVP.

     

12. Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund

Sancho’s season has been extremely productive; in 2020 alone he is racked up 5 targets and 6 assists, managing one in all every in three straight video games to kick off his 12 months. He is missing that huge UEFA Champions League efficiency to vault him into the highest 10, although.

     

11. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester Metropolis

Metropolis as a group have struggled to hit their finest ranges persistently this season, which means De Bruyne has needed to step ahead extra typically than standard to make the distinction.

He was spectacular towards Actual Madrid within the 2-1 win within the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie and already has a trophy (Carabao Cup) to his identify this 12 months. That is good early going.

       

10. Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund

Key stat: 5 targets in his first 57 minutes as a Dortmund participant

BREMEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 22: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund at Wohninvest Weserstadion on February 22, 202

DeFodi Pictures/Getty Pictures

Haaland’s breakout in 2019-20 got here as no shock—he was clearly primed for it—however nobody may have imagined the total extent of his speedy rise.

For him to be on this checklist is sort of one thing. Again in August, he was getting ready to embark on his first full season with Purple Bull Salzburg; six Champions League targets later, he is a Dortmund participant, after which issues get actually wild.

Twelve targets in black and yellow already, thanks partly to one of many hottest begins in historical past—5 targets in his first 57 Bundesliga minutes—then an exciting brace towards Paris Saint-Germain within the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie.

Solely two gamers have scored extra targets than him in 2020, and it is debatable none have made a much bigger short-term, transformative impression.

      

9. Thiago Alcantara, Bayern Munich

Key stat: 10 key passes in 9 video games this 12 months

Thiago Alcantara do Nascimento of FC Bayern Munich during the German DFB Pokal quarter final match between FC Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich at the Veltins Arena on March 03, 2020 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany(Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)

ANP Sport/Getty Pictures

Thiago is a benefactor of the Ballon d’Or’s odd judging interval. The primary half of his season was removed from elite, however because the calendar flipped, his degree has been sky-high, which means he is used his time properly if he is on the hunt for a Ballon d’Or.

His elevate in performances has coincided with Bayern’s rise in type; as they’ve repositioned themselves as a severe footballing drive, Thiago has re-emerged as a top-tier midfield technician, able to controlling and dominating video games.

He scored in three straight video games throughout January and February, has impressed along with his poise on the ball as standard and has additionally added a grittier facet—evidenced by his career-high variety of yellow playing cards in 2019-20.

Aesthetics are an enormous a part of soccer, and Thiago is about as clean and silky as they arrive. That works in his favour on this rating.

       

8. Angel Di Maria, Paris Saint-Germain

Key stat: 9 assists in 2020

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 11: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) In this handout image provided by UEFA, Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates victory with fans outside the stadium after the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Paris Sa

UEFA – Handout/Getty Pictures

At age 32, Di Maria is experiencing one thing of a second wind in his profession.

He is within the working for PSG’s participant of the season award, tussling with varied glamorous names for that title, and he is proper right here, too, on the periphery of the Ballon d’Or dialog.

The main target understandably falls on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in Paris, however this Les Rouge et Bleu facet really feel a bit of totally different this time round. They really feel like real Champions League contenders as a result of supervisor Thomas Tuchel has constructed a system during which the “others” can thrive too, reminiscent of Di Maria.

His work fee and consistency have been pillars to construct on, and he is been traditionally inventive, too, registering 9 assists this 12 months because of some intelligent passing and arrow-like set items.

      

7. Ciro Motionless, Lazio

Key stat: 11 targets (two braces, one hat-trick) in 2020

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 16: Ciro Immobile of SS Lazio celebrates after scoring goal 1-1 during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and  FC Internazionale at Stadio Olimpico on February 16, 2020 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images)

Silvia Lore/Getty Pictures

It might be fairly straightforward to go over Motionless’s identify within the Ballon d’Or stakes as a result of he isn’t a conventional famous person, however why ought to that reality rely him out?

No participant in Europe’s high 5 leagues this season has extra targets than him (27), and 11 of these have come this 12 months as his scorching “streak” has developed right into a seven-month demolition of Serie A defences.

The 30-year-old is your definition of a late bloomer, solely in the previous few seasons rising as a high participant having tried and failed with spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla.

Now, he is Serie A’s high scorer, on tempo for a document variety of targets if the league continues, and is Italy’s No. 9. Life comes at you quick.

       

6. Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain

Key stat: 12 targets, eight assists in 2020—no one has extra mixed.

LYON, FRANCE - MARCH 4: Kylian Mbappe of PSG celebrates his third goal during the French Cup semifinal match between Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Groupama Stadium on March 4, 2020 in Decines near Lyon, France. (Photo by Jean Ca

Jean Catuffe/Getty Pictures

Mbappe could make soccer look really easy.

We’re on the stage the place Ligue 1’s better of the remainder cannot get near him, a reality highlighted by his particular person trouncing (hat-trick in 5-1 win) of Lyon within the Coupe de France in March, and his unimaginable 2020 output of 12 targets and eight assists in all competitions.

Crucially, although, he would not have a powerful Champions League efficiency to level to proper now. He might have grabbed an help towards Dortmund in February, however he performed poorly general (Tuchel’s unusual ways performed a component on this), and he did not begin the second leg due to sickness.

So, the place you fee Mbappe’s Ballon d’Or case proper now relies upon closely on how extremely you worth big-game performances towards run-of-the-mill home video games. On this rating, he suffers barely compared to a number of the different star-studded names.

       

5. Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain

Key stat: 9 targets, 4 assists in 10 video games. Objectives in each round-of-16 legs.

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 11: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) In this handout image provided by UEFA, Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates victory after the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at P

UEFA – Handout/Getty Pictures

Neymar is among the world’s finest footballers, so for him to not even make the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or in 2019 may have stung. That is a dramatic failure when you think about his aspirations and private targets.

Maybe it is lit a hearth below him—the best way he is carried out of late, you could possibly argue that is the case.

As at all times, Neymar’s Ballon d’Or declare lives and dies in response to two issues: his personal health and PSG’s impression within the Champions League.

He’s off to a superb begin having already performed a vital half in guiding PSG to the quarter-finals, netting in each round-of-16 legs to defeat Borussia Dortmund. Whereas he had a rib damage, it did not drive him to overlook essential video games.

It must be extra of the identical when soccer returns, and he may set himself up for a memorable 12 months.

         

4. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

Key stat: 9 targets, three assists in eight video games

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Robert Lewandowski of FC Bayern Munchen celebrates the first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Chelsea FC and FC Bayern Muenchen at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2020 in London, Unit

Visionhaus/Getty Pictures

Lewandowski saved Bayern afloat earlier than Christmas, along with his targets papering over a number of cracks within the facet. Now with Hansi Flick in cost and the machine repaired, oiled and rolling, he is arguably the scariest No. 9 in Europe.

Objectives have by no means been laborious to come back by for Lewandowski, however he feels notably ominous and prolific proper now. With 9 targets and three assists in simply eight video games, it is clear few are capable of forestall him from having a telling impact on the sport.

RB Leipzig are the one one facet to have held Lewandowski goalless or assistless this 12 months, and that took an excellent efficiency from Dayot Upamecano within the coronary heart of defence to take action. 

He is an entire ahead, able to ending strikes, scoring each sort of aim and developing play for others. And he does all of that in each recreation, each week.

        

3. Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Key stat: three assists vs. Actual Betis, 4 targets vs. Eibar

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 07: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates his team's first goal during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on March 07, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Im

High quality Sport Pictures/Getty Pictures

There have been loads of confused faces when the reigning Ballon d’Or winner went 4 video games with out discovering the web in February. That simply would not actually occur—or so we assumed.

Assuaging any potential considerations was the truth that in lieu of targets, Messi registered six assists, a hat-trick of them coming towards Actual Betis, a group he is made a behavior of saving his mercurial finest for.

Even when he isn’t scoring (and he often is), he is making up for it in different methods—and he ended that mini-drought with a four-goal blitz towards Eibar anyway.

As you’d anticipate, Messi is within the early working for the 2020 Ballon d’Or.

          

2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

Key stat: scored in 9 straight video games

FERRARA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 22:  Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus shoots to score the first goal of his team during the Serie A match between SPAL and  Juventus at Stadio Paolo Mazza on February 22, 2020 in Ferrara, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Pictures

A transparent pattern has emerged in Ronaldo’s play through the years: In autumn and early winter he can go a bit of quiet, however when the calendar flips and soccer will get severe, he cranks issues up a notch or two.

2019-20 has adopted this rhythm: Ronaldo managed simply 10 membership targets between August and December, however because the flip of the 12 months he is scored 13—besting that tally in roughly half the video games.

He started 2020 with a hat-trick towards Cagliari and used that as a platform to go on an actual tear, netting in 9 straight video games in all competitions.

What counts towards his case for the Ballon d’Or because it stands, although, is his (and his group’s) no-show within the round-of-16 first leg with Lyon, which they misplaced 1-0. Proper now, we won’t level to a typical big-game efficiency from Ronaldo—although you’d think about that is coming, doubtless towards Lyon within the second leg when soccer lastly returns.

         

1. Josip Ilicic, Atalanta

Key stat: 14 targets in 2020, 5 within the Champions League spherical of 16

Atalanta's Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic celebrates after  the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Valencia CF and Atalanta at Estadio Mestalla on March 10, 2020 in Valencia. (Photo by - / POOL UEFA / AFP) (Photo by -/POOL UEFA/

-/Getty Pictures

Simply as all of us suspected, one of the best participant in 2020 up to now has been…32-year-old Atalanta ahead Ilicic.

He is at all times been gifted, however coach after coach has struggled to extract any measure of consistency from him—till he joined forces with Gian Piero Gasperini.

Ilicic has had a implausible season—a very phenomenal final three months. Nobody has scored extra targets than him in 2020 (14); no participant has scored extra hat-tricks (two); nobody else has netted from virtually the midway line.

The Slovenian has waltzed via video games as Atalanta have racked up big scorelines in Serie A and the Champions League, slamming dwelling end after end with trademark bend off his left foot.

He is been thrilling, enjoyable, productive, and he has performed persistently on the best stage doable. He lacks the identify energy Ronaldo, Neymar and Messi boast, however he is been higher than all of them this 12 months up to now.

Ronaldo and Messi have dominated this award over the past decade, with it taking a Champions League-winning and World Cup runner-up 12 months from Luka Modric to interrupt issues up, so Ilicic would wish some set of occasions to truly win it.

However on the pool of proof now we have up to now, he’d deserve it essentially the most.

      

Take heed to Sam each Wednesday on the B/R Soccer Ranks podcast. Subscribe right here. 

         

Observe @stighefootball

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All statistics through WhoScored.com and Transfermarkt.co.uk.





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