With seven players nominated for the 2019 Ballon d’Or, Liverpool lead all clubs in terms of nominations for the award for the first time this millennium.
While it was already clear that this is the best Liverpool team in a generation, it is the quality of individuals in Jürgen Klopp’s squad which is highlighted by the number of unique contenders the Anfield side currently boasts.
In fact, with Scottish left-back Andrew Robertson and Brazilian destroyer Fabinho both overlooked in the nominations, there is an argument that the Reds’ dominance amongst the 30 nominees could have been even greater.
As it is, the Liverpool players up for the award are Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Georginio Wijnaldum, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
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Here’s where we predict each of them to finish in the final rankings:
Gini Wijnaldum, CM, Netherlands
- Crucial two goals as part of the comeback against Barcelona.
- Incredible goal and assist return when playing for the national team.
- General success of Netherlands across the year, including the Nations League.
- Minimal goal contributions in the Premier League.
- Plays a role that is often overlooked when it comes to individual prizes.
- Has been overshadowed by midfield companion Fabinho in the 2019-20 season.
Gini Wijnaldum is not going to win the Ballon d’Or.
The Dutch midfielder has become an integral part of Klopp’s side since the start of the 2018/19 season, with his workrate and ball retention invaluable to the Liverpool system.
However, these qualities are not typically those that are recognised when individual prizes are awarded, and most Liverpool fans would argue that Wijnaldum’s midfield contribution is less crucial than teammate Fabinho’s, anyway.
While Wijnaldum may have enjoyed the best year of his career to date, he will have been happy to have even received a nomination for the Ballon d’Or.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, RB, England
- Unbelievable assist record marks him out as the greatest offensive full-back around.
- Featured in the 2018/19 Team of the Tournament for both the Premier League and the Champions League.
- Corner taken quickly…
- Often overlooked by Gareth Southgate in the national team set-up.
- Occasional defensive errors need to be eradicated from his game.
- The award has never been won by a full-back.
Often, one would expect any 21-year old nominated for a Ballon d’Or to be the youngest player amongst those in the discussion. Trent Alexander-Arnold, however, is not even the youngest defender hoping to win the gong this December, that being Dutch centre-half Matthijs de Ligt.
Is Trent too young to win it? Arguably. It almost feels as at such a young age, great performances are taken as indicators of great potential, as much as they are current ability. Kylian Mbappé is also very unlikely to win the award, despite winning Ligue 1, its Golden Boot and Player of the Year trophies and impressing in the Champions League throughout the calendar year.
As the only full-back nominated, the Liverpool local should take pride in triumphing from an often unheralded position.
Roberto Firmino, CF, Brazil
- Key role in Brazil’s Copa América win.
- Received more widespread praise and attention in the last year, having previously ‘gone under the radar’.
- Many top analysts have pointed to his importance in the Liverpool system that won the Champions League.
- Very minimal goals and assists output for any forward in this debate.
- Reduced output in both the Premier League and Champions League since his stellar 2017/18 season.
- Failed to make a big impact in either the semi-final or final during the Champions League run.
This has been the year in which Roberto Firmino has started to receive the plaudits that Liverpool fans have always argued he deserved, concluding in his nomination for the Ballon d’Or.
Brazil manager, Tite, found a means to incorporate both Firmino and Gabriel Jesus in the same system, as the Selecao won their first Copa América since 2007. In the 2018 World Cup, of course, Firmino was often overlooked as a starter, with Jesus starting up top.
Meanwhile, managers-cum-pundits with reputations as esteemed as José Mourinho and Arséne Wenger called on Firmino’s role as being the most important in this Liverpool side, which can only help Bobby’s case for a top-ten finish.
However, when up against other forwards with the scoring records boasted by the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi — not to mention the Brazilian’s Liverpool teammates — his comparatively reduced output will probably count against him.
Mohamed Salah, RW, Egypt
- Golden boot-winning Premier League campaign.
- Scorer in Champions League final.
- Has the star factor required to win individual awards.
- Disappointing Africa Cup of Nations performance.
- Decreased output from a sensational 2017/18 season.
- Outperformed by Mané in terms of Liverpool wingers in 2019.
Mohamed Salah only came sixth in the Ballon d’Or of 2018, when he set the record for individual goals in a Premier League season, was the key player in Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and fired Egypt to their first World Cup in a generation.
However, despite a year littered with fewer individual achievements, there is every chance that Salah could equal that sixth-place finish, if he doesn’t outright beat it, such is the general bias towards the Champions League-winner in the award’s recent history.
A strong showing in the Africa Cup of Nations for hosts Egypt could have propelled Salah’s case for this year’s gong forward. However, a disappointing defeat to lower-ranked South Africa in the first knockout round scuppered such hopes.
Salah’s start to the 2019/20 campaign has not been his best, with a few niggling injuries causing him to lose some match-time, however with votes already long ago submitted, it would be no surprise if the Egyptian King were to crack this year’s top five.
Alisson Becker, GK, Brazil
- Conceded just one goal across the Copa America as Brazil won the tournament.
- Unbelievable display in Champions League final saw him keep the first clean sheet in said fixture for nine years.
- Part of the Liverpool defensive set-up with the fewest goals conceded in Europe’s top five leagues in 2018-19.
- Would need to become the first goalkeeper to win the award since Lev Yashin in 1963.
- Missed significant chunk of the new season with injury.
Alisson Becker has had an unbelievable 2019 — a Champions League win, a key role in Selecao’s win of the Copa América, after his penalty heroics had saved the hosts earlier in the competition — it is almost certain that he will finish as the highest-ranked goalkeeper in this year’s rankings.
Nevertheless, however good the Brazilian No. 1 has been, has he delivered the single-best calendar year from any goalkeeper since 1963? That’s the last time a goalkeeper won this prestigious prize.
Alisson will not realistically pick up the award this week, but he does look the favourite to win the inaugural Yashin Award, given to the highest-placed ‘keeper. A huge achievement.
Sadio Mané, LW, Senegal
- Premier League Golden Boot winner and Team of the Season member.
- Guided Senegal to African Cup of Nations final.
- 29 goals so far in 2019, more than any other Liverpool player.
- Smaller profile than other offensive contenders.
- Did not score in either the Champions League semi-final or final, although he was brilliant in the 4-0 against Barcelona.
There is a very real chance that Sadio Mané finishes on the metaphorical podium, on Monday.
When Cesc Fábregas suggested that he is one of the best three players in the world, last month, rival fans looked to mock and taunt. However, most would agree that right now Mané is the best offensive player in English football, alongside Kevin de Bruyne.
The Senegalese’s unbelievable combination of speed, power and technical ability has in 2019 been accompanied by a greater composure in front of goal, which saw him share the golden boot for the 18-19 Premier League season.
Even if Virgil van Dijk and Lionel Messi look to be the two clear contenders for the top prize, it would seem that Mané and Robert Lewandowski will vie for the ‘bronze medal’. Mané outperforming the Pole when the two met in the Champions League could give him the edge
Virgil van Dijk, CB, Netherlands
- Delivered arguably the greatest campaign from a central defender in Premier League history, as a defender won its Player of the Year trophy for the first time since 2005.
- Captained Holland to the first Nations League final.
- Awarded Man of the Match trophy for performance in the Champions League final win.
- Would be the first defender to win the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
- Slightly reduced level during the 2019-20 campaign (while still performing superbly).
When I started preparation for this article, I listed Virgil van Dijk as my projected winner of the 2019 Ballon d’Or. He would become the first defensive recipient in over a decade, but van Dijk has been that good that he could, and maybe should end that drought.
However, earlier this week reports and rumours broke out suggesting that it is Argentine legend Lionel Messi who will win his record seventh award. This would be testament to the fact that defenders will always struggle to find the same individual recognition that those further upfield tend to receive.
Messi did, after all, deliver a sublime performance to sink Liverpool 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg. But it was van Dijk who dominated their second individual contest in the Reds’ famous second leg turnaround.
Will the PFA Player of the Year winner’s European success be enough to earn him that crown? We can only wait and see. But one of these two sensational players, both of whom would be deserving winners will no doubt be awarded the prize.
Don Kopleone’s predicted results
- Virgil van Dijk/Lionel Messi
- Virgil van Dijk/LionelMessi
- Sadio Mané
- Robert Lewandowski
- Bernardo Silva
- Mohamed Salah
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Kylian Mbappé
- Raheem Sterling
- Matthijs de Ligt
- Frenkie de Jong
- Roberto Firmino
- Kevin de Bruyne
- Marc-André ter Stegen
- Sergio Agϋero
- Kalidou Koulibaly
- Eden Hazard
- Trent Alexander-Arnold
- Dušan Tadić
- Son Heung-min
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Karim Benzema
- Gini Wijnaldum
- Antoine Griezmann
- Donny van de Beek
- João Félix
- Riyad Mahrez
- Hugo Lloris