10 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Last time: 8th
In 2021: One goal, 19 clean sheets. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Dias has not looked the same player for Portugal at Euro 2020 as he did during his debut season at Manchester City, which could be a troubling sign for Pep Guardiola.
There remains no doubt, however, that he has been the exceptional centre-back in world football over the course of 2021.
9 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 11th
In 2021: 25 goals, nine assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
Haaland may be sitting at home with his feet up, but while other possible Ballon d’Or challengers strive at the Euros, his place among the top 10 is growing ever stronger.
It is justified, too, after his superb campaign in both the Bundesliga and Champions League.
8 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 9th
In 2021: 20 goals, five assists.
Benzema’s brace against Portugal implied that those who had voiced concerns since his return to the France set-up had done so early, with the Real Madrid man now guaranteed of leading the line for Les Bleus as they aim to reach a third successive major tournament final.
7 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Last time: 7th
In 2021: 27 goals, four assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Ronaldo will still apparently break the all-time mens international goalscoring record in 2021, but that he did not do it at Euro 2020 will sting a bit for a man who thrives on being the centre of attention on the biggest stage.
He still may finish the competition as the Golden Boot winner, but any hopes he had of forcing his way into the Ballon d’Or race have apparently gone after Portugal’s early elimination.
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6 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 3rd
In 2021: 10 goals, 10 assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
At the time of writing, we still do not know the severity of the injury which forced De Bruyne off early in the second half of Belgium’s win over Portugal, but if it does rule him out of the rest of the competition, then his Ballon d’Or dreams may go with it.
Given how unbelievable the City man is to watch, let’s assume it is not the last we have seen of him this summer.
5 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Last time: 6th
In 2021: 30 goals, 10 assists. Won Copa del Rey.
While Messi has not been his usual aggressive self at the Copa America, he has helped Argentina into a position where they will likely now top their group, meaning they will avoid Brazil until a possible meeting in the final.
That could, then, be sufficient time for Messi to pick up some momentum as his quest for a first international trophy goes on.
4 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 4th
In 2021: 34 goals, four assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.
Lewandowski did all he could, but Poland yet again disappointed miserably at a major competition, meaning their star striker is likely going to need a surprise winner of the tournament to win the award he should really be defending this year.
3 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
Last time: 5th
In 2021: 21 goals, seven assists. Won Serie A.
With De Bruyne possibly out, the burden of carrying Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ to a first trophy will fall even heavier on Lukaku’s shoulders, though he looks competent of taking on the responsibility.
He was unplayable at times against Portugal and could yet secure the Golden Boot at Euro 2020 if Roberto Martinez’s side can reach the final.
2 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 2nd
In 2021: 29 goals, six assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Three games in and still no goals for Mbappe at Euro 2020 suggests that he needs a big knockout stages – starting with Monday’s encounter against Switzerland – to move himself back to the front of the queue for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
1 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Last time: 1st
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League.
The gap between Kante and the rest of the Ballon d’Or contenders has only widened since the start of Euro 2020, and though an early departure for France would see the race close up once more, right now it is hard to see past the diminutive Chelsea midfielder claiming the biggest individual prize of them all.
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