How coronavirus could affect the race for Ballon d'Or 2020
With only two months of the calendar year completed and the European Championships postponed till 2021, could a decision still be taken for the individual prize?
Is it possible that the annual Ballon d’Or award will be judged with just two months of footballing action completed? With coronavirus having forced domestic competitions to be suspended, Euro 2020 being turned into Euro 2021, and international governments struggling to control the spread, the race for the best player in the world, awarded by France Football, may have to be conditioned on what we’ve seen in January and February, with possibly some additional play coming later.
How are some of the traditional big names doing?
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina)
In the search for his seventh Ballon d'Or, Messi is the top scorer in LaLiga, with 19 goals, and is the main factor in Barcelona sitting at the summit of Spanish football, despite a relatively average season for the Catalan side. So far in 2020, the Argentine has scored nine goals and handed off a further seven in assists for his teammates. Something that goes against the number 10 is his performances away from Camp Nou but he would certainly be near the top of the voting sheet for many.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus, Portugal)
After a difficult start to the new season, Cristiano hit top gear in December. He scored in eleven consecutive Serie A matches from then (heading into the enforced break with 21 league goals) and looks arguably the most likely from Italy’s top flight to lift the individual award. In early 2020 he has bagged 13 goals and provided two assists, and was one of the in-form players.
Neymar (PSG, Brazil)
Another player forced into the break in good form. After two years of ups and downs, Neymar had finally taken the step forward that PSG had required of him. He led the Parisians to the quarter-finals of the Champions League with two goals against Borussia Dortmund (following two years of failure) and has started 2020 with nine goals and four assists. The signs before the stoppage were that the Brazilian could, finally, be the man to grab the burden of responsibility and fulfil the club’s ambitions.
Kylian Mbappé (PSG, France)
Still one of the young stars, despite his experience, Mbappé has always shown that he is capable of stepping up when the more ‘mature’ heads of the likes of Neymar go missing, normally through injury. With the Brazilian stealing back some of the limelight of late, this has not prevented the French star from shining in his own right, further pushing links of a huge move to Real Madrid in the next available window. The two forwards are proving to be working as one of the most dangerous front lines in Europe and any Ballon d’Or voter would be remiss not to consider his credentials. Joint top scorer in Ligue 1, with 18 goals, part of a side that is on track to lift the title again as well as reaching both domestic finals, as well as the European adventure. His 2020 numbers speak for themselves: 13 goals and nine assists.
Lewandowski (Bayern, Poland)
If we can say that Bayern Munich started the 2019/20 season on a roller coaster, Robert Lewandowski could only be described as their safety bar that kept them in position. The experienced Polish striker has maintained the Bavarians’ title challenge in the Bundesliga - one that sees some impressive, if unexpected, competition - and this included him scoring in 15 consecutive games. Now top of the table, Lewy is the leading scorer in the Champions League (11) and in the German league (25), with the opening two months of 2020 seeing a contribution of nine goals and three assists. His performance at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, where Bayern won 0-3, was one to remember.
The major leagues around Europe are all staying confident that there will be much, much more football played before any votes are considered. As well as several other impressive performers, though, expect some of these traditional headline makers to be in the mix...assuming the coronavirus allows it.