Mohamed Salah further enhanced his Ballon D’or credentials when tore Roma apart at Anfield in their Champion’s League clash.
Comparisons with Ronaldo and Messi have been played down throughout the season. However, following that stellar performance and similar league success, it seems that the same pundits believe he could snatch the Ballon D’or away from them. With the recent dip in form of Harry Kane, he is likely be adding a golden boot to his mantelpiece.
In his post-match analysis for BT Sport, Steven Gerrard acknowledged that Messi and Ronaldo have done what Salah is doing for almost a decade.
Nevertheless, he says “without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the best player on the planet right now.”
The Liverpool legend could be considered a little biased, but many pundits seem to agree with him.
Speaking for Sky Sports, Former Celtic and Scotland manager Gordon Strachan said “He’s in a position that not many players ever get to in their careers, when they’re literally untouchable.”
Asked if he was a contender for the Ballon D’or now, Strachan replies “Yes, he hasn’t been doing it for the last four, five, six years like Messi and Ronaldo, he’s doing Messi things now.”
Arsenal legend Ian Wright agrees, saying the manner in which the Egyptian terrorises defenders is a joy to watch.
“You have to look at Ronaldo who’s done a lot of his best work in the Champions League for the last couple of seasons and won it,” Wright says.
“If Mo Salah continues what he’s doing and they go on to win it, then I think yeah he’s not only in the conversation, he’s got a very good chance of winning it,” according to Wright.
Andy Gray showered further praise on Salah saying that his goal tally is impressive, but he affects games in many other ways.
“It’s more than just his goals, it’s his enthusiasm for the game, he creates chances for other players and he never misses a match,” he says.
“Normally they just put Ronaldo and Messi down every year, but what a season he has had in what’s regarded as the toughest league in the world,” says Gray.
Who deserves it?
It’s hard to split Salah, Ronaldo and Messi at the moment, which doesn’t get any easier when you look at their statistics.
The case for Salah
Salah’s 2 goals and 2 assists in the first leg against Roma will do his chances no harm, especially if Liverpool go on to win the tournament.
His statistics for the season are astonishing- 31 goals in 33 Premier League games, with 10 goals in 11 Champions League games.
Overall, he has 43 goals and 13 assists for the entire season. He leads Ronaldo in both goals and assists, while Messi has fewer goals, but more assists.
Like all great players, he has performed in almost every big game this season, lifting Liverpool when they’ve needed him the most.
One blemish on Salah’s season has been Liverpool’s failure to challenge earlier for the league, currently sitting 19 points adrift of winners Manchester City.
The case for Ronaldo
It’s incredible that Ronaldo is so close to winning a fourth straight Ballon D’or considering his disastrous start to the season.
While Salah has one more goal than the Portuguese and Messi has more assists, Ronaldo is currently averaging more than one goal per game.
An extraordinary statistic when you consider that he has made 39 appearances this season.
His 1.07 goals per game trumps Messi’s 0.8 and Salah’s 0.91.
In the league, he has notched up an impressive 24 goals and 5 assists in 28 games.
Crucially, he has saved his best performances for the Champions League, scoring 15 goals and 2 assists in 11 games.
He did it against stiff opposition too, including Borussia Dortmund (3 goals, 2 games), PSG (3 goals, 2 games) and Juventus (3 goals, 2 games).
His mesmerising bicycle kick against Juventus will also live long in the memory, and will be difficult to surpass.
He is likely to finish as the Champion League’s top scorer once again. If Real Madrid can win the tournament for a record third consecutive time, Ronaldo will undoubtedly be the favourite to win the Ballon D’or.
The case for Messi
Messi has been no slouch this season either, grabbing 40 goals and 18 assists. If we combine the goals and assists of all three candidates, Messi has the most.
Goals + Assists:
Messi 58 (40 goals, 18 assists)
Salah 56 (43 goals, 13 assists)
Ronaldo 50 (42 goals, 8 assists)
The little maestro has delivered some masterful performances in La Liga, scoring eye-catching free kicks, making jaw-dropping assists and snatching late equalisers/winners.
He leads La Liga for both goals (29) and assists (12) and there’s no doubt his consistency has been crucial to Barcelona winning the league by a wide margin.
He was less impressive in the Champions League, although there’s no shame in scoring 6 goals and 2 assists in 10 games against Europe’s elite.
His failure to win a Champions League medal may cost him however, as Salah and Ronaldo appear to be on course for the Champions League Final.
If either of them wins Europe’s biggest prize, it will be a huge blow to Messi’s chances.
Too tough to choose at this stage
As you can see, there’s very little between them and you could easily make a case for all three players winning the Ballon D’or.
It’s possible that Messi and Ronaldo will pay for their consistency over the years.
After all, we expect them to score 40-60 goals every season and are beginning to take their brilliance for granted.
Salah, on the other hand, has come from nowhere, which has meant that his outstanding performances have continually stolen the headlines.
Who could have predicted he would even be in the conversation for top European honours before the season began? The pressure on Ronaldo and Messi can only aid him.
Over the years, a Champions League medal and a Ballon D’or have generally gone hand in hand for both Ronaldo and Messi.
It will probably take a Champions League medal to split these players again. Ronaldo and Salah would have to be considered the favourites on that basis.
That’s obviously bad news for Messi, who has had such a good season, but his side bowed out of the Champions League Quarter-Finals.
However, the World Cup may be another factor that swings the pendulum back in the Argentine’s favour. If he can finally win an international tournament medal, he may steal the trophy from his rivals’ grasp.
It’s too hard to choose a winner just yet, but we’ll certainly enjoy watch the Ballon D’or race unfold for the rest of the season.