The presence of Mohamed Salah, who had a stellar 2018/19 season and is one of the favourites to win football's most coveted individual honour, the Ballon d'Or, did not make the difference as the Pharaohs exited the competition.
Thanks to his goalscoring exploits, the former Roma star shared the Premier League Golden Boot with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as the trio racked up 22 goals each in the 2018/19 campaign. While he failed to deliver the Reds' maiden Premier League title, the 27-year-old starred for Jurgen Klopp's side as they lifted their sixth Champions League by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Had hosts Egypt won the AFCON title, Salah would have been the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or in 2019. However, rivals South Africa had other plans for them. The Pharaohs' elimination from the continental tournament has dealt a blow to their talisman's hopes of winning the most coveted individual award.
Lionel Messi's 2018/19 season:— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 24, 2019
勞 51 goals
1️⃣ Champions League top scorer
1️⃣ Barcelona top scorer
On the other hand, Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi racked up a stunning 51 goals and 22 assists in 50 appearances across all competitions in the recently concluded season. His goalscoring exploits in La Liga helped the Blaugrana win their 26th La Liga and earned him the European Golden Boot. However, the little magician failed to win any other piece of silverware as the Catalan giants were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League semi-finals and were defeated in the Copa Del Rey final as well.
Recently, Messi's Argentina were knocked out of the Copa America by Brazil in the semi-finals, who then went on to claim the title. Messi and co. beat Chile to finish third in the continental tournament.
While Mohamed Salah, Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk failed to add an International trophy to their name, their defeats mean that Portuguese skipper Cristiano Ronaldo has a better chance of winning the Ballon d'Or. Despite winning only one trophy last season, Lionel Messi too has a strong claim on the award, thanks to his astounding individual season. After their 10-year duopoly on the award was ended by Croatian midfielder Luka Modric in 2018, it could be that Ronaldo and Messi are the two best individual contenders for the award this year.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Real Madrid as the Ballon d'Or holder last summer, had a laudable debut season with Italian powerhouse Juventus. The 34-year-old forward racked up 28 goals and 10 assists across all competitions in the 2018/19 season. He scored 21 goals while setting up another eight in the league as he helped the Bianconeri win their eighth successive Serie A title.
On this day in 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus— Futball Knobs (@FutballKnobs) July 12, 2019
⚽️ 28 goals
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner also won the Supercoppa Italiana before winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League title with Portugal, as they defeated Virgil van Dijk's Netherlands in the final. Ronaldo scored a sensational hat-trick against Switzerland in the semi-finals to take his team through to the final against the Dutch side.
Van Dijk and Salah's UEFA Champions League triumph with Liverpool aids their Ballon d'Or cause, while Messi's out of the world statistics last season make him one of the top contenders.
On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished the season with two domestic trophies with the Old Lady and one international trophy with Portugal, cannot be ruled out of the equation. It remains to be seen which of the aforementioned players lifts the highly-coveted Ballon d'Or title in 2019.