Ballon d'Or 2021 Power Rankings: Neymar plummets as Champions League finalists climb

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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. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
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    #20 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

    Last time: 18th

    In 2021: 15 goals, one assist.

    It says so much about Liverpool's season that Salah's assist for Sadio Mane against Southampton on Saturday was the first time the pair have combined for a Premier League goal in 2020-21, with the Reds having so often looked disjointed and out of sync this term.

    A top-four finish remains in reach for Jurgen Klopp's side, while Salah himself will still fancy his chances of claiming a third Golden Boot in four years.

  2. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
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    #19 Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)

    Last time: 20th

    In 2021: 11 goals, one assist.

    Suarez may not have been able to break down the Barcelona backline on Saturday, but Atletico remain out in front in the Liga title race with just three games left to play.

    It is unlikely to be straightforward for the Rojiblancos as they head towards the finish line, but Suarez now has the chance to write himself into Atleti folklore if he can fire them to glory.

  3. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
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    #18 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Last time: 8th

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

    Neymar may have a new four-year contract in his back pocket, but he will not have a Champions League winners' medal to go with it after being turned over by Manchester City in the semi-finals.

    To make matters worse, a draw with Rennes on Sunday leaves them three points behind Lille in the Ligue 1 title race with just two games left to play.

    Not even an impressive Copa America will be enough for the Brazil star to get back among the Ballon d'Or front-runners now.

  4. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
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    #17 Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 15th

    In 2021: Two goals, 10 assists.

    Kroos was powerless as Madrid put in a feeble display at Stamford Bridge to exit the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea.

    They then backed that up by only drawing with Sevilla having been handed the opportunity to take control of the Liga title race, though Kroos was outstanding at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, laying on assists for both Madrid goals.

  5. Mason Mount (Chelsea)
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    #16 Mason Mount (Chelsea)

    Last time: 17th

    In 2021: Nine goals, three assists.

    Mount's impressive season goes on, with the Chelsea academy graduate scoring the goal that sealed the Blues' place in their third Champions League final.

    A starting berth for England at Euro 2020 is also now surely his, while he could be celebrating an FA Cup win this time next week too.

  6. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
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    #15 Harry Kane (Tottenham)

    Last time: 14th

    In 2021: 17 goals, four assists.

    Tottenham's hopes of playing in next season's Champions League are all but over following their defeat at Leeds, with Kane now needing to rely on a strong European Championship to catapult him towards the top 10 in the Ballon d'Or race.

  7. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
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    #14 Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

    Last time: 19th

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

    Having scored or assisted in five of City's six Champions League knockout matches this season, few have done more to earn Pep Guardiola's side a place in the final on May 29.

    The Algeria international's double against PSG confirmed his place among the very best wingers in world football, and he could yet end the season with two more major trophies to his name.

  8. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
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    #13 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

    Last time: 12th

    In 2021: 13 goals, nine assists.

    A decent week for Fernandes, who helped United reach the Europa League final before netting in yet another come-from-behind win for the Red Devils, this time at Aston Villa.

    His critics may point to a number of his goals being penalties, but there are few better spot-kick exponents anywhere in Europe right now.

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

    Last time: 9th

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

    A Champions League without Ronaldo is almost unthinkable, but if he is still at Juventus next season then that could be what the Portugal international is facing up to.

    Sunday's embarrassing 3-0 home defeat against AC Milan leaves the Bianconeri on the outside of the Serie A top four looking in, and with tough fixtures still to come, their chances of fighting their way back in look slim at best.

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

    Last time: 10th

    In 2021: 20 goals, eight assists.

    He may not have been out on the pitch, but Haaland certainly seemed to enjoy his weekend as he watched Dortmund's crucial win over RB Leipzig from the stands.

    The Norway striker should be back for this week's DFB-Pokal final against the same opponents before turning his attention to scoring the goals to secure Champions League football for next season.

  11. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
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    #10 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

    Last time: 6th

    In 2021: 16 goals, three assists.

    Benzema carried Madrid as far as he could in this season's Champions League, but he could not find a way past Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal at Stamford Bridge as the Blancos exited the competition with a whimper.

    He then saw a goal disallowed and a penalty wiped away by VAR in Sunday's draw with Sevilla, meaning the chances of Zinedine Zidane's side ending the season trophyless are now very real.

  12. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
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    #9 Phil Foden (Manchester City)

    Last time: 11th

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

    Foden's rise from precoucious talent to one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe over the past six months has been one of the joys of the season, and now he will get his chance to strut his stuff in the Champions League final.

    A place in Gareth Southgate's line-up at the Euros is also now surely his, with the 20-year-old now likely to appear on these rankings for at least the next decade.

  13. Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
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    #8 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

    Last week: 6th

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

    Gundogan risks becoming the forgotten man of City's (potential) treble-winning season, with most of his good work having been done before the clocks went forward.

    He still has a Champions League final and European Championship to look forward to, but it feels like the Germany international's chances of winning individual accolades have gone.

  14. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
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    #7 N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

    Last time: 16th

    In 2021: One assist.

    Could a midfielder who rarely contributes with direct goal contributions really challenge for the Ballon d'Or?

    Kante's performances in both the Champions League and Premier League suggest he should now be in the conversation, and with Euro 2020 to come with France, a place on the podium could yet be his.

  15. Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
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    #6 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)

    Last time: 5th

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

    Lukaku was given the weekend off as Inter celebrated their Scudetto win by thrashing Sampdoria, with Antonio Conte willing to pick and choose when to unleash Serie A's outstanding player of 2020-21 between now and the end of the season.

    With that in mind, expect the Belgium international to be fighting fit once the Euros roll around in mid-June.

  16. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
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    #5 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

    Last time: 13th

    In 2021: One goal, 17 clean sheets. Won Carabao Cup.

    This was the week Dias went mainstream.

    Premier League fans have spoken all season about how much Dias' presence has improved City's defence, and against PSG on Tuesday the whole of Europe got to see what all the fuss about.

    The Portugal international was immense, making countless blocks and challenges to keep the French champions at bay. Could he yet go one better than 2019 runner-up Virgil van Dijk?

  17. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
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    #4 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

    Last time: 2nd

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

    A couple of weeks ago, Barcelona were many onlookers' favourites to win La Liga, but a late stumble now means they need an unlikely set of results to reclaim the crown they lost to Real Madrid last season.

    Messi did his best against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, and only a superb Jan Oblak save denied the Argentine from netting one of the individual goals of the season at Camp Nou.

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

    Last time: 4th

    In 2021: 29 goals, four assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.

    Lewandowski celebrated Bayern's ninth successive Bundesliga title by putting Borussia Monchengladbach to the sword with a clinical hat-trick at the Allianz Arena.

    The Poland international now needs two goals from Bayern's final two games of the season to break Gerd Muller's record for the most goals in a German top-flight season, which currently stands at 40.

  19. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
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    #2 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

    Last time: 3rd

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

    De Bruyne is probably going to need to step up in either the Champions League final or through the Euros to justify this ranking, but the potential for him to do so means he is worthy of it right now.

    That is not to say he has not been playing well in City's biggest games of late - it is just that he is not providing the headline-grabbing moments a player needs to truly contend for a Ballon d'Or.

  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.

    Would things have been different for PSG at the Etihad Stadium if Mbappe was fit?

    We will never know, but the France international's wait for a first Champions League title will go on following the Ligue 1 side's exit on Tuesday evening.

    Regardless, Mbappe would still likely be most fans' pick as the competition's player of the season, and he will head into the Euros as the best player at the tournament.

    As such, he remains out in front in the Ballon d'Or race. The gap, though, continues to narrow...