Despite all the troubles of 2020, the past year of football has seen some exceptional stories.
Bayern Munich dominated the scene and won the treble, Liverpool finally ended their 30-year wait for a league title, Leeds United made it back into the top flight on the 46281871th time of asking – we’ve seen it all.
As is customary, individual awards are handed out at the end of the year, and arguably the most prestigious of them all is The Best FIFA Men’s Player prize. And, with the Ballon d’Or moved to 2021, it’s got even more of an edge to it.
But who from the 11-man shortlist deserves the award the most? Let’s take a look.
11) Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich and Liverpool)
The former Barcelona man was a key player at the heart of Bayern’s midfield, dictating and dominating games with his class and composure. However, an injury-hit start to life in England may just inhibit Thiago’s chances of ranking any higher than 11th.
10) Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
When Sadio Mane was brought to Liverpool for a staggering £34m, more than a few eyebrows were raised. However, the Senegalese winger has proven to be an exceptional signing.
Last season, Mane was crucial to Liverpool’s success, scoring 18 goals – including five match winners.
9) Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
One of football’s most divisive characters, Sergio Ramos made the shortlist after captaining Real Madrid to La Liga glory.
The Spaniard was influential at both ends of the pitch. Los Blancos conceded the fewest goals in the league, while Ramos netted 11 goals – not bad for a centre-back.
8) Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Neymar’s game time was somewhat limited in the 2019/20 season, which could possibly prevent him from getting many votes. However, when he played, he was almost always brilliant, scoring 19 in 27 as PSG won a domestic treble.
7) Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Now if you think Mane’s transfer fee raised eyebrows, cast your mind back to the Virgil van Dijk saga.
It goes without saying, really, but the Dutchman silenced the critics fairly quickly, guiding Liverpool to title success with continuous rock-solid performances at the back.
Unfortunately, his injury in the Merseyside derby in October may just work against him. Nonetheless, Van Dijk remains one of the planet’s best centre-backs.
6) Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
There aren’t many players who have achieved what Kylian Mbappe has at the age of 21. A World Cup winner’s medal, a fair few trophies in France, fourth in the Ballon d’Or, FIFPro World XI twice, Ligue 1 Player of the Year – the list is endless.
The Frenchman’s 30 goals in 37 games last season give him a chance to extend that trophy cabinet further.
5) Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
The fourth and final Liverpool player to make the shortlist is the Egyptian king himself, Mohamed Salah.
His 23 goals in 48 appearances is, rather incredibly, his worst tally so far in a Liverpool shirt. However, that really says more about the insanely high standards he has set himself in recent years.
A fast start to the new campaign will only help Salah’s case.
4) Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Despite his age, Cristiano Ronaldo is still one of the planet’s deadliest goalscorers, bagging 37 in 46 last campaign as he led Juventus to a ninth successive Serie A title. And, despite Juventus’ fairly below-par start, Ronaldo is still performing in the 2020/21 season, scoring 9 in 7.
The Portuguese is currently The Best award’s most decorated player, winning in twice since its inception in 2016.
3) Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
It may have been an underwhelming league campaign for Manchester City, but Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne hit new heights on a personal level.
Scoring 13 goals and registering a record-equalling 20 assists, De Bruyne scooped the PFA Player of the Year award, as well as winning UEFA Champions League Midfielder of the Season.
2) Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi’s 2020 has been turbulent to say the very least, but the Argentine was still performing to an incredible standard.
Rather unsurprisingly, Messi once again won the La Liga Golden Boot, while also breaking the Spanish league’s all-time assist record for a single season with 21. However, humiliation in the Champions League, an ugly transfer saga in summer, and a slow start to the new season have left a stain on things.
1) Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Is there any doubt over who will win this prize?
Lewandowski has been one of the most prolific goalscorers of his generation. However, he reached new heights in 2019/20, breaking the 50-goal barrier for the first time in his career.
The Poland international ended the season as the top scorer in the Bundesliga, Champions League, AND DFP Pokal, winning all three competitions. If that’s not worthy of the award, then nothing ever will be.