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While the actual prize for the best footballer of 2020 will not be handed out until December, each week Goal will be tracking the runners and riders

The race for the 2020 Ballon d'Or is up and running, with the world's best players all vying to get their hands on the most prestigious individual award football can offer.

Lionel Messi is, for the sixth time in his career, the defending champion having picked up the prize in December , but the competition is as fierce as many can remember following the Argentine and Cristiano Ronaldo's recent dominance.

Messi also proved that a player can come up short in both the Champions League and major international tournament and still claim the prize, meaning there is hope for players who otherwise may have felt they were out of the reckoning.

So, with nine months of the year still to go, who is leading the race and which players have work to DO, to get themselves into contention? Our weekly rankings have all the answers...


Is Ilicic going to win the Ballon d'Or? Probably not. Does his form in 2020 justify inclusion among the early contenders? Certainly.

Ten goals and five assists in his first 10 appearances of the year mean that 32-year-old Ilicic is one of the hottest attacking players on the planet right now, and with Atalanta well set to reach the Champions League quarter-finals he is likely to be involved in a number of high-profile matches in the coming weeks.


Runner-up to Messi in 2019, Van Dijk remains the outstanding centre-back in world football, but Liverpool's recent form means his already difficult task of usurping some of the world's most famous forwards is getting much harder.

Despite a run of conceding just one goal in seven games to start the year, shipping nine in the next five has led to a sequence of three defeats in less than a month that is threatening to put a dampener on the Reds' otherwise historical campaign.


The leader in the race for this year's European Golden Shoe with 27 Serie A goals to his name already this season, Immobile has spearheaded Lazio's unlikely Serie A title bid.

With no more European football, his Ballon d'Or chances will likely rest on securing both the Scudetto and the prize for the continent's most prolific goalscorer as well as enjoying a strong Euro 2020 with Italy, but that is certainly not out of the question.


With Karim Benzema enduring a difficult start to the year after a goal-laden 2019, it is Real Madrid's midfield general who has emerged as Zinedine Zidane's most important player.

A monstrous display in the recent Clasico helped to cement that status, and though they face a fight to progress in the Champions League and have again slipped behind Barcelona at the top of La Liga, there is no doubt that Casemiro should be in the minds of those who matter when votes are cast later in the year.


It has been quite the turnaround for Dybala in Turin, with the Argentina international having gone from being shopped around in the summer to a key player in Juventus' quest to win an unprecedented treble.

His superb goal against Inter on Sunday helped Maurizio Sarri's side tighten their grip on the Serie A title race as well as take his individual tally to four goals and seven assists since the turn of the year.

With a Copa America to come this summer, Dybala has the chance to finally break into the elite tier in 2020.


Seven goals in 10 Premier League games since the turn of the year for Salah suggests that the Egypt forward is rediscovering his best form in front of goal for Jurgen Klopp's side.

Despite that, with the Reds needing to turn around their Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, no summer tournament to speak of and a glut of players on his own team who will consider themselves in the mix for this year's award, he faces a fight to get among the frontrunners.


Nine goals in 11 games since the turn of the year, one of which set City on their way to a first trophy of 2020, suggests that Aguero is showing no signs of slowing down this season.

He may not have played in the first leg of their Champions League tie against Real Madrid, but the fact that they have half a foot in the quarter-finals means he should have other opportunities to shine on the European stage before the season is out.


For so long derided by opposition fans, Henderson's qualities both as a midfielder and a leader are finally being recognised in 2020, with some even believing he should be named PFA Player of the Year in England.

As with all the Liverpool players, getting past Atletico Madrid and into the latter stages of the Champions League is key to winning any further personal accolades, but Henderson could have done little more to force himself into contention.


This is what hope feels like, Manchester United fans.

Three goals and three assists in seven United appearances from Fernandes since his move from Sporting have put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side right back in the race for a Champions League berth next season.

Factor in a clutch of the favourites for this season's Europa League either getting themselves knocked out in the last 32 or drawing one another in the last 16, and suddenly continental silverware looks very possible for a Red Devils side spearheaded by their new Portuguese playmaker.


While he may only have scored three Bundesliga goals since the turn of the year as Leipzig's title hopes seemingly slip away, Werner remains one of the most feared forwards in Europe.

He scored the winner against Tottenham to put Julian Nagelsmann's side within touching distance of a first Champions League quarter-final and is set to lead the line for an unfancied but improving Germany team at Euro 2020 this summer. His best form may still be ahead of him.


Scoring two goals in the most eye-catching team performance of the Champions League knockout stages so far will not have done Gnabry's chances of lifting the ultimate individual prize any harm.

Factor in his Bundesliga form, where he has contributed five goals and three assists in eight appearances to help lift Hansi Flick's side back to the summit, and the former Arsenal man is putting together quite the portfolio.


For the first time in three years it seems that Neymar will be a factor when it comes to handing out the prize he moved to PSG to win, but needless to say he must do more to if he is to even finish among the top 10.

Eight goals in nine games since the turn of the year is one thing, but if Thomas Tuchel's side cannot turn around their Champions League tie with Dortmund then it will not count for much once the voters make their choices.


The current frontrunner to be named Player of the Season in the Premier League, it is widely believed that Mane is now the most important attacking piece in Liverpool's jigsaw, even if he has contributed just four goals since the turn of the year.

Being substituted off at half-time in the first leg against Atletico will have damaged his case, but if he can lead Klopp's side to another famous Anfield comeback then he will be back among the Ballon d'Or favourites.


Twelve goals in as many games since the start of 2020 have helped Mbappe move to the top of the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts and his club into two cup finals, but - as with everyone at Parc des Princes - only the Champions League truly matters.

The European Championships will offer Mbappe a second chance to shine on the world stage should they fail to see off Dortmund, but defeat to the Bundesliga outfit would massively hurt his chances.


Since returning from the winter break, Sancho has provided at least a goal or an assist in all eight of his Bundesliga appearances to keep Lucien Favre's side in the title race.

Factor in Dortmund's win over PSG in the Champions League and injuries to some of England's star forwards ahead of Euro 2020, and this is shaping up to be an even better 12 months than the last for the teenage winger.


It says a lot for Messi's ability that he can score in just three La Liga games in 2020, become embroiled in a running row with Barcelona's sporting director, put in one of his least memorable Clasico performances in recent memory and fail to inspire his side to a victory against Serie A's sixth-best team in the Champions League, and still be so high in these rankings.

If Messi gets hot, then it could get Barcelona over the line in two competitions, win Argentina a Copa America and him a seventh Ballon d'Or. If he does not then this threatens to become one of his least memorable years ever


You would have got long odds on Erling Haaland winning the 2020 Ballon d'Or at the start of the season, but Europe's most exciting teenage talent has taken the game by storm over the past six months.

After a superb first half of the campaign at Salzburg he has maintained that form following his move to Dortmund, scoring 12 goals in 10 games for Lucien Favre's side including a brace which has put BVB on the cusp of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.


Usually 13 goals in 10 domestic games, scoring in all-but one of them, and leading the race to win yet another league title would leave Ronaldo out in front in terms of ranking the early Ballon d'Or contenders.

However, Juve's defeat to Lyon has cast some doubt over their progression into the latter stages of the Champions League, and without a deep European run it is difficult to see the Portuguese equalling Messi's six Ballon d'Or wins this time around.


He may currently be nursing an injury which has ruled him out until at least early April, but it is difficult to find a player enjoying a better season than Lewandowski anywhere in Europe.

Since the turn of the year he has contributed nine goals in eight games across all competitions to help Hansi Flick's side move to the top of the Bundesliga table and almost ensure the German champions of a place in the Champions League quarter-final draw.


De Bruyne may not be about to secure a third successive Premier League winner's medal, but it is difficult to argue against him being the standout individual player in the English top-flight this season as he closes in on Thierry Henry's assist record for a single season.

His performance and winning goal at Santiago Bernabeu further strengthens his case, and with City well on track for a treble of cup successes and Belgium one of the favourites for Euro 2020, the best midfield player in the world may just be getting started on his path to true greatness in 2020

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