Ballon d'Or 2021 Power Rankings: Messi & De Bruyne close the gap at the top

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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 season heating up heading into its final month before a couple of major summer tournaments, the world's best players are beginning to come to the fore.

So, by using their performances so far, as well as predictions of what is likely still to come in 2021, who holds the most power in 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: 20th

    In 2021: 11 goals, one assist.

    Suarez may not have scored since March 21, but while Atletico remain top of La Liga, then the face of their successful campaign will retain a very slim chance of launching a Ballon d'Or challenge.

    Do not forget that Suarez will also be at the Copa America this summer with Uruguay, and as such could yet end his season celebrating club and international glory.

  2. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
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    #19 Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2021: Seven goals, six assists. Won Carabao Cup.

    One of the unsung heroes of City's season, Mahrez has quietly been putting together an impressive 2021, with his free-kick in Paris the crowning moment so far.

    He has managed to push himself ahead of Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres in the pecking order, and could yet have one more moment of magic in him if City are able to reach the Champions League final.

  3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
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    #18 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

    Last time: 16th

    In 2021: 15 goals.

    It ended up as being a week without a game for Liverpool and Salah as their clash with Manchester United was postponed due to the fan protests at Old Trafford.

    As such, not much to report on the Egypt star this week as he looks to claim yet another Premier League Golden Boot.

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

    Last time: 17th

    In 2021: Eight goals, three assists.

    Those who doubted Mount's talents are getting quieter and quieter the longer this season goes on, with the England international's superb assist for Kai Havertz on Saturday yet another example of the huge potential the Chelsea star possesses.

    If the Blues can go on to win the Champions League and FA Cup in the coming weeks, expect Mount to fly up these rankings before the campaign is over.

  5. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
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    #16 N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    In 2021: One assist.

    Kante returns to the top 20 after man-of-the-match display against Real Madrid, meaning he has now been recognised for his performances against both sides from the Spanish capital since the turn of the year.

    When Kante is good, there are very few midfielders who can do as much as him with and without the ball, and with Euro 2020 still to come this summer, he could yet have a fair few winners' medals to add to his collection by the time the year is out.

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

    Last time: 15th

    In 2021: Two goals, eight assists.

    Chelsea were successful in limiting Kroos' impact on the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, but the Germany international cannot be counted out when it comes to potentially turning the tie on its head this coming week.

    He was not required on Saturday as Zinedine Zidane's side beat Osasuna, meaning he will be well rested for the trip to Stamford Bridge.

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

    Last time: 14th

    In 2021: 17 goals, four assists.

    It is not often Tottenham score four goals and Kane is not directly involved in any of them, but that was the case on Sunday as Spurs thrashed Sheffield United.

    In truth, Kane's chances of individual accolades now rest on England winning Euro 2020. Anything less and he will likely be remembered as an also-ran.

  8. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
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    #13 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

    Last time: 12th

    In 2021: One goal, 16 clean sheets. Won Carabao Cup.

    Dias' dropping is nothing against him, particularly after his dominant display against PSG on Wednesday, but this is a game where attacking players get the majority of the plaudits, and as such the deck will always be stacked against the Portugal international.

    That said, a Champions League winners' medal and deep run for Portugal at Euro 2020 could catapult him back into contention over the summer.

  9. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
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    #12 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

    Last time: 13th

    In 2021: 12 goals, eight assists.

    If there were any doubts over Fernandes' form in recent weeks, he bounced back superbly against Roma, scoring two goals and laying on two more in United's crushing Europa League semi-final first-leg win at Old Trafford.

    Off-field events have since taken over at the Theatre of Dreams, but on the pitch Fernandes continues to be their shining light as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chases his first trophy in charge.

  10. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
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    #11 Phil Foden (Manchester City)

    Last time: 11th

    In 2021: Nine goals, six assists. Won Carabao Cup.

    Foden was yet again in superb form for City in Paris, as his stock continues to rise with every supreme performance on the biggest stage in club football.

    He probably won't win the Ballon d'Or this year, but expect him to be regularly challenging for it for at least the next 10 years.

  11. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
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    #10 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

    Last time: 9th

    In 2021: 20 goals, eight assists.

    An injured Haaland could only watch on from the sidelines as his team-mates qualified for the DFB-Pokal final, but he should be back to help potentially fire them to some silverware in the coming weeks.

    That still won't win him a Ballon d'Or, but any doubt over his place in the eventual top 10 despite not being at the Euros could be removed with a trophy.

  12. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
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    #9 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

    Last time: 10th

    In 2021: 19 goals, three assists. Won Supercoppa Italiana.

    Ronaldo stepped up to keep Juventus' hopes of a top-four finish in Serie A alive, as his late double against Udinese on Sunday probably kept Andrea Pirlo in a job for at least another week.

    That is a good sign for Portugal, who will be hoping their talisman can use the coming weeks to warm himself up for the European Championship.

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

    Last time: 8th

    In 2021: Six goals, five assists. Won Trophee des Champions.

    Neymar cut a frustrated figure by full-time against Manchester City on Wednesday, and it now feels as if failure to turn the tie around this week will end the Brazil international's Ballon d'Or hopes as well as his Champions League dream for another year.

    A goal and an assist against Lens on Saturday suggest he remains in decent form, but doing it in Ligue 1 is one thing; doing it in the Champions League semi-finals is another.

  14. Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
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    #7 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

    Last week: 6th

    In 2021: 14 goals, five assists. Won Carabao Cup.

    Since February 13, Gundogan has just three goals in all competitions, and just one in the Premier League, with his impact on games having been particularly limited in recent weeks.

    He remains one of the key figures in City's imminent Premier League title win, but his hopes of individual recognition outside of England continue to slip away.

  15. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
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    #6 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 7th

    In 2021: 16 goals, three assists.

    Madrid looked all at sea during the opening 30 minutes of their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, only for a moment of magic from Benzema to bring them back into the tie.

    Though the French striker has been forced to deal with the responsibility of leading an otherwise faltering attack, he continues to do so with aplomb, with a La Liga-Champions League double still a possibility for the Blancos.

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

    Last time: 5th

    In 2021: 14 goals, six assists. Won Serie A.

    His goal drought may have stretched to five games, but this was a weekend for Lukaku to celebrate nonetheless. Inter secured the Scudetto after a second half of the season that saw the Belgium international lead the Nerazzurri into an unassailable position at the top of the Serie A table.

    Lukaku will now look to end the season by rediscovering his form in front of goal before focusing on Euro 2020 this summer.

  17. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
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    #4 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

    Last time: 3rd

    In 2021: 26 goals, three assists. Won Club World Cup.

    No game for Lewandowski this week as Bundesliga took a back seat to the DFB-Pokal semi-finals, with the former power rankings leader now facing up to missing out on a podium finish.

    A strong end to the domestic campaign and impressive Euro 2020 could, however, change everything once more.

  18. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
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    #3 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

    Last time: 4th

    In 2021: Eight goals, seven assists. Won Carabao Cup.

    He may not have meant it, but there is no doubt that De Bruyne's goal at Parc des Princes turned City's semi-final clash against PSG on its head, and as such his stock in this race continues to rise.

    The Belgium international may not be able to compete with those around him in terms of raw numbers, but as the leading light in teams that are Premier League champions-elect, Champions League favourites and Euro 2020 favourites, the opportunity to turn in more decisive moments cannot be ignored.

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

    Last time: 2nd

    In 2021: 26 goals, nine assists. Won Copa del Rey.

    When Barcelona fell behind against Valencia on Sunday, they risked going from favourites to win La Liga to fourth in the table in the space of three days following their loss to Granada on Thursday.

    Messi, however, stepped up yet again, with his double - including a superb free-kick - securing a 3-2 win that sets up next week's clash with Atletico Madrid brilliantly.

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

    Last time: 1st

    In 2021: 23 goals, three assists. Won Trophee des Champions.

    The gap from Mbappe to the rest has certainly closed over the past seven days, but the France international remains out in front for now following one of his quietest weeks in 2021.

    He struggled to make an impact against Manchester City in the Champions League, and he now faces a race to be fit for the return leg on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday's win over Lens.

    If he can make it back, he will need a big performance at the Etihad Stadium to not only turn the tie around for his team, but remain the frontrunner in the Ballon d'Or race.