Ballon d'Or 2018 opened up by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's World Cup exits
Last Updated: 03/07/18 10:34am
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi crashed out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage over the weekend, so will there be a new Ballon d'Or winner this year?
Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the award for the last decade, winning it five times each, but their World Cup hopes were dashed with Portugal and Argentina's last-16 exits.
So which other stars could be in the frame for the prize? We take a look at five potential candidates for the 2018 Ballon d'Or, four of whom are still in World Cup contention...
Neymar has long been mooted as the most likely player to break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly. He became the world's most expensive player with his £222m switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and while his first season in France was not without its problems, he still managed 28 goals in 30 games as PSG won a domestic treble.
Could a World Cup triumph land him the biggest individual honour there is? Neymar has made no secret of his desire to win the Ballon d'Or, admitting it was his main motivation for stepping out of Messi's shadow and moving to PSG, and he has been at the heart of Brazil's march to the quarter-finals in Russia.
His goals against Costa Rica and Mexico have taken him to 57 for Brazil (he is behind only Pele and Ronaldo in their all-time scoring charts) and he will be desperate to add to that tally when they face Belgium in the last eight. If he can inspire them all the way to the trophy, he will be difficult to ignore.
Mbappe produced the most explosive performance of his burgeoning career in France's thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 on Saturday, scoring twice and winning a penalty following a brilliant run from deep in his own half.
The jet-heeled forward is still only 19, but he has already established himself as one of the world's biggest superstars. Having burst onto the scene at Monaco, he enjoyed a successful debut season with Neymar at PSG, scoring 21 goals in 44 appearances and adding another Ligue 1 title to the one he lifted with his boyhood club in the previous campaign.
If he can produce more performances to match his showing against Argentina in Russia, he could be in the frame to become the youngest Ballon d'Or winner in history.
Kane's extraordinary goalscoring rate shows no sign of slowing down. The 24-year-old is yet to win silverware with Tottenham, but last season was his best yet as he surpassed the 40-goal mark for the first time.
Crucially, he has picked up where he left off this summer on the biggest stage of all. Kane rescued England against Tunisia, opening the scoring and then notching the winner in the dying moments of the game, and he followed that up with a hat-trick against Panama, putting him top of the scoring charts in just two games.
Kane is now the leading contender to win the Golden Boot, and with England's route to the final looking kind, he has a good chance to extend his tally, starting with Colombia on Tuesday.
Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne is another player who can make a case for himself. The playmaker was outstanding in Manchester City's historic title triumph last season, scoring eight goals and providing 16 assists as they became the first side in Premier League history to reach 100 points.
He is the brains of Pep Guardiola's team and he plays the same role with Belgium. His outside-of-the-boot assist for Romelu Lukaku against Panama is likely to go down as one of the passes of the tournament and he kick-started the match-winning counter-attack against Japan. But De Bruyne will be eager to add more magical moments to his showreel in the weeks ahead.
Inspiring Belgium to World Cup glory would undoubtedly be his best achievement yet.
Unlike Neymar, Mbappe, Kane and De Bruyne, Salah's World Cup opportunity is already gone following Egypt's group stage elimination in Russia, but he did manage two goals in his two appearances and few players performed so spectacularly at club level last season.
In total, there were 44 goals in 52 appearances for Jurgen Klopp's side, including 32 in the Premier League. His debut campaign ended in heartbreak as he was forced off with an injury in the Champions League final, leaving Liverpool to rue what might have been, but the PFA and FWA Player of the Year will surely be a Ballon d'Or contender if his extraordinary goalscoring heroics continue in the first half of next season.
Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.