The odds on Kevin De Bruyne winning the Balon d’Or have plummeted in recent weeks after the Belgian midfielder continued his stunning form.
The Man City creator in chief is the heavy favourite to be named Premiership Player of the Year after lighting up the league with his vision and superb range of passing. He inspired Pep Guardiola’s men to victory over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup Final at the weekend, and they now lead second-placed Man Utd by 16 points after drubbing the Gunners again Thursday. Several City players have been on fire, including David Silva, Sadio Mane and Sergio Aguero, but De Bruyne stands out as a true luminary.
However, it would represent a huge upset if he were to break the Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi duopoly on the World Player of the Year award. Those two have won it every year for the past decade – with five wins apiece – and no Premiership player aside from Ronaldo has ever been crowned the world’s best. Thierry Henry finished second twice and Fernando Torres finished third in his Liverpool days, but La Liga has dominated the award in recent times.
The Premiership has produced some magnificent players during that time, but the likes of Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have all failed to take the prize.
Yet this Man City team is probably going to develop into the greatest the Premiership has ever seen, and De Bruyne is its star. City are favourites to win the Champions League, priced at just 3/1 with bookmakers like William Hill and Ladbrokes. If they win Europe’s premier competition, a Man City player will have a legitimate shot at being named the world’s best.
De Bruyne does not play in as glamorous a position as Messi or Ronaldo, but he is the beating heart of the Man City side, he enjoys a huge number of touches in every game and he has been attacking with gusto.
Messi seems hell-bent on wrestling the title of the world’s best player back from his great rival, Ronaldo, and the diminutive Argentinean has been on fire this season. He leads the goal scoring charts in La Liga with 22, and his Barcelona team are still unbeaten in the league. They look destined to win it, and they too are in with a good chance of winning the Champions League. Messi heads the betting to win the Balon d’Or, priced at 5/4 with Unibet, 11/8 with Sky Bet and 13/8 with Marathon Bet. Next is Neymar, who is 10/3 with Marathon, and then De Bruyne is 13/2, ahead of Ronaldo at 7/1 with Sky Bet.
Real Madrid have made a disastrous defence of their La Liga crown and Ronaldo has been poor domestically. He has lit up the Champions League, where he is the top scorer, but his form in La Liga may well count against him. They are ahead on aggregate against PSG, though, and poised to progress at the French team’s expense, so the Champions League may offer further redemption.
That will also count against Neymar, as will the broken metatarsal that is currently keeping him sidelined. But you also have to bear in mind that this is a World Cup year, and performances in Russia will help sway the Balon d’Or decision. Portugal are the European champions, but they are unlikely to have much of an impact at the World Cup. Brazil are second favourites and Neymar is their star man, so that will afford him an excellent chance to stake his claim for glory.
Argentina are also strong and Messi is the favourite to finish as top scorer at the World Cup. But Belgium are blessed with an excellent side, featuring De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Yannick Carrasco, Radja Nainggolan, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Courtois. They look a real dark horse to win it, and De Bruyne will be conducting the Belgian orchestra, so it could be a glorious year for the 26-year-old. He is the second most popular choice after Messi to win the Balon d’Or and looks like an interesting punt considering the superb form he is currently displaying.