Ballon d'Or 2021 Power Rankings: Messi and Neymar climb as injuries hit contenders

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The awarding of the prize was cancelled in 2020 and the world's best players are again making their cases to claim the coveted individual honour

After being cancelled in 2020,  the Ballon d'Or is back, with the great and good of the football world again eyeing the biggest individual honour the game has to offer.

Although the prize will not be handed out until December, performances over the coming weeks will go a long way to deciding who will and won't be in contention to succeed 2019 winner Lionel Messi.

With the the game at the highest level in an unprecedented state of flux, it remains to be seen what the rest of the season has in store, but the world's biggest players will be at the heart of it.

So, by using their performances so far, as well as predictions of what (we hope!) is likely still to come in 2021, who holds the most power in the early stages of this year's race?

Goal ranks the runners and riders...

  1. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
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    #20 Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)

    Last time: 17th

    In 2021: 11 goals, one assist.

    Suarez continues to sit on the sidelines, though he would have been pleased by what he saw from his Atletico team-mates in Sunday's 5-0 win over Eibar.

    They remain on top in La Liga, meaning Suarez retains a slim chance of forcing himself back into contention if he can get back to full fitness soon.

  2. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
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    #19 Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2021: Six goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey.

    A number of Barca's young players have stepped up during the second half of the campaign, and none more so than De Jong.

    The former Ajax star has put in excellent performances both in midfield and defence, and after scoring twice and laying on an assist in Saturday's Copa del Rey final, his return to fom has gone mainstream.

    A strong European Championship for the Netherlands could yet see him crack the top 10.

  3. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
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    #18 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

    Last time: 18th

    In 2021: Five goals, 11 assists. Won Club World Cup.

    Despite his best efforts in Paris, Muller could not inspire a Bayern Munich comeback in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and he is now unlikely to earn much exposure outside of Germany unless he earns a surprise international recall this summer.

    He did bounce back with yet another assist in the Bundesliga on Saturday, but his chances of individual success may be about to disappear.

  4. Mason Mount (Chelsea)
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    #17 Mason Mount (Chelsea)

    Last time: 19th

    In 2021: Eight goals, two assists.

    From a season that was faltering badly around the turn of the year, Chelsea could yet finish the season with an FA Cup-Champions League double if their current form holds.

    Mount remains the most consistent performer within Thomas Tuchel's squad, and if they do end the season with silverware, expect him to play a key role in the games that are to come.

  5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
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    #16 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

    Last time: 14th

    In 2021: 14 goals.

    With Liverpool unable to turn around their Champions League clash with Real Madrid, it would take a very strong end to the season for Salah to realistically challange those towards the top of the rankings.

    He could yet win the Premier League Golden Boot, and if he does then he may well have helped the Reds secure a top-four finish too.

  6. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
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    #15 Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 15th

    In 2021: Two goals, eight assists.

    Real Madrid remain in the Champions League, and as such their star players remain in the hunt for individual honours as they aim to shine in some of the most-watched games in world football.

    Kroos also has the European Championship ahead of him for Germany, and could be the dark horse this race needs as we enter what is the most important period of the year.

  7. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
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    #14 Harry Kane (Tottenham)

    Last time: 13th

    In 2021: 17 goals, four assists.

    Kane's superb goalscoring form continued against Everton on Friday, but the sight of him limping out of Goodison Park with an ankle injury will have worried both Tottenham and England supporters.

    There is no doubt that Kane is one of 2021's outstanding performers, but if he misses the Euros, any hopes of a Ballon d'Or run would be over.

  8. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
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    #13 Phil Foden (Manchester City)

    Last time: 16th

    In 2021: Eight goals, six assists.

    There may be no quadruple for City this season, but if Foden maintains his current form, Pep Guardiola's side could yet end the season with three pieces of silverware to their name.

    The England international scored the winner in both ties against Borussia Dortmund, and the chances of him starting for England this summer grow with every performance.

  9. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
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    #12 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

    Last time: 10th

    In 2021: One goal, 15 clean sheets.

    City's previous defensive stability seems to have left them somewhat, and the way they were cut open by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final will have worried Guardiola on Saturday.

    Dias continues to barely put a foot wrong, but his chances of individual honours rest on success for his teams, both at club and international level.

  10. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
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    #11 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

    Last time: 11th

    In 2021: 10 goals, six assists.

    A quiet week for Fernandes by his standards, but it was still a week in which United secured their qualification for a European semi-final.

    If they can go onto win the Europa League, then the Portugal international could well enter the top 10 of contenders.

  11. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
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    #10 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

    Last time: 9th

    In 2021: 17 goals, three assists. Won Supercoppa Italiana.

    Ronaldo was forced to watch on from afar as Juventus lost out to Atalanta on Sunday, with their top-four hopes in Serie A now hanging by a thread.

    It is looking increasingly likely that Ronaldo is going to need a special Euro 2020 as Portugal defend their crown if he is to secure a sixth Ballon d'Or.

  12. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
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    #9 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

    Last time: 8th

    In 2021: 18 goals, seven assists.

    He may have ended his seven-match goal drought with a Bundesliga double on Sunday, but Dortmund's exit from the Champions League means that Haaland will only have domestic football to shine in over the next four months.

    Norway's failure to qualify for the Euros really has hit the hopes of their star man in his search for a first global honour at senior level.

  13. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
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    #8 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 12th

    In 2021: Four goals, three assists. Won Trophee des Champions.

    Neymar's numbers remain far lower than the other challengers, but his performance against Bayern on Tuesday suggested that he could be about to explode on the biggest stage in club football.

    The Brazil international was electric, and it is worth remembering there is a Copa America to come this summer. Could this really be his year?

  14. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
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    #7 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 7th

    In 2021: 13 goals, one assist

    Benzema remains the likeliest Madrid star to earn solo plaudits as they prepare for the Champions League semi-finals, with the French striker routinely the man that the Blancos turn to in a crisis.

    That said, he could not inspire them off the bench in Sunday's goalless draw with Getafe, a result that hurt their Liga title chances as they aim to hunt down Atletico.

  15. Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
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    #6 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

    Last week: 6th

    In 2021: 14 goals, five assists.

    Gundogan's influence on this City team is not what it was earlier in 2021, and as such it feels as if he is losing his grip on a place near the top of these rankings.

    That said, the injury suffered by Kevin De Bruyne could free the Germany international up to take the lead once more, as he did in the Belgian's absence around the turn of the year.

  16. Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
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    #5 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)

    Last time: 5th

    In 2021: 14 goals, five assists.

    Inter's winning run may have come to an end with the draw against Napoli, but they remain well on track for the Scudetto.

    It would take something special for Lukaku not to be named Player of the Year in Serie A, and he will be one of the favourites to claim the Golden Boot at the European Championship too.

  17. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
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    #4 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

    Last time: 4th

    In 2021: Seven goals, six assists.

    The aforementioned injury for De Bruyne is very concerning for fans of City, Belgium and magestic midfield play everywhere, and a long-term absence would likely see him tumble out of the Ballon d'Or race.

    If has avoided serious damage, he could yet force himself onto the podium.

  18. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
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    #3 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

    Last time: 2nd

    In 2021: 25 goals, three assists. Won Club World Cup.

    Lewandowski is yet another of the world's biggest names to be nursing an injury, and though his record for the year remains outstanding, there is no doubt that Bayern's elimination from the Champions League hurts his chances of claimg the prize many felt he should have been awarded in 2020.

    That is not to say his chances are over, but the former Power Rankings lead is now the third-favourite.

  19. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
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    #2 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

    Last time: 3rd

    In 2021: 21 goals, eight assists. Won Copa del Rey.

    We may never see Messi lift another trophy in Barcelona colours, and perhaps that is why the mercurial Argentine went all out to ensure few would forget Saturday's win over Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey final.

    Messi's superb first goal in Seville harked back to his very best years, and he followed that up with a second before full-time. Now for La Liga...

  20. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
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    #1 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 1st

    In 2021: 21 goals, three assists. Won Trophee des Champions.

    He may not have found the net for the first time in a Champions League knockout tie this season in Tuesday's loss against Bayern, but Mbappe had done the damage in the first leg and remains the outstanding candidate for this year's biggest prizes.

    The France international's double against Saint-Etienne on Sunday helped PSG keep up the pressure on Lille in the Ligue 1 title race, and he could yet end the season by winning a treble before heading to the Euros with the favourites.

    This year has the potential to be the year of Mbappe - can anyone stop him?