Liverpool have accounted for four of the 11 nominations for The Best FIFA men's player award.

The Premier League champions have Virgil van Dijk, the 2019 runner-up to Lionel Messi in this category, recognised along with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara, who joined in the last transfer window after winning the treble with Bayern Munich.

Messi and two-time award winner Cristiano Ronaldo are also on the shortlist along with Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Robert Lewandowski is among the favourites to win the award, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos the other nominees.

FIFA confirmed last week its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern's Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. 

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award, which he won in 2019.

There are six goalkeepers up for the accolade, with Bayern's Manuel Neuer likely to be tough to beat amid competition from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid shot stopper Courtois won the award in 2018, a year after Gianluigi Buffon claimed the inaugural edition.

FIFA has confirmed its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. Messi also won The Best FIFA Men's Player award in 2019.

Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d'Or Feminin holder, likewise took The Best FIFA Women's Player accolade last time out.

Confirming the date of the 2020 ceremony, FIFA said it was important to acknowledge achievement "in this extraordinary year"

"This year, it has been clearer than ever that nothing is more important than health," a statement read.

"The protagonists of the game have taken on greater responsibility, not just as players but also as role models giving hope to communities everywhere and sharing messages of unity in the face of the ongoing public health crisis.

"Following the safe resumption of competitions, thanks to a combination of hard work and solidarity across our sport, football has provided a rare source of comfort and joy to many.

"Thus, it is important that FIFA honour such achievements in this extraordinary year.

"In line with public health precautions and FIFA's guiding principle that health comes first, it has been decided that the awards ceremony will be held as a virtual event only."

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

In his heyday, Arsene Wenger was widely praised for his trust in young players and eye for developing talent.

After all, Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie are just a few of the players he helped nurture into top-level international footballers.

But for every Henry is a superstar who got away… Or so Le Professeur would have us believe.

A football manager can't sign everyone, but as the joke goes, Wenger seems to have tried to buy all of them - all of the players. Or, all the really good ones anyway. Funny, that.

The Frenchman has been doing the media rounds of late and most recently floated the idea of Cristiano Ronaldo playing alongside Henry, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp in an interview with the BBC.

So, with that as the jumping-off point, we put together an XI made up entirely of players who supposedly came close to joining Wenger at Arsenal…

GIANLUIGI BUFFON

As the story goes, Wenger's pursuit of Buffon got to the point where the pair had dinner together during his days with Parma, but Juventus soon came along and made him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world at the time.

Everything suggests he would've been a remarkable signing in terms of ability and longevity. In 2017 he became the oldest player to captain a side in the Champions League final at 39 years and 126 days – and he's still going, three years on.

RAPHAEL VARANE

Granted, Wenger may not have explicitly said that he almost bought Varane during his formative years, but he was certainly frustrated to have missed out on him in 2013 when he queried why Arsenal hadn't been in for him two years earlier.

Varane has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's best centre-backs and in 2018 became just the third player to be on the winning team in the Champions League and World Cup finals in the same year, emulating Christian Karembeu (1998) and Roberto Carlos (2002).

VINCENT KOMPANY

It's arguable that Arsenal's biggest weakness in Wenger's final 10 years at the helm was their defence – a host of underwhelming options were signed and discarded.

Oh how different it might have been had they signed Vincent Kompany in 2006 when his agent claimed they were interested. He went on to captain Manchester City to two Premier League titles and played 265 times in the top-flight, more than any other Belgian.

GERARD PIQUE

It seems a long time ago that Pique was at Manchester United, struggling to earn a place in the starting XI, but even before then he could have ended up at Arsenal – and, stylistically, one has to wonder whether that would have been the better move for him.

Wenger has previously admitted they tried to get Pique but they were unable to beat United to his signature. He returned to Barcelona in 2008 and has since won three Champions League crowns, just one of three players to play every minute of those finals.

ROBERTO CARLOS

OK, to be fair to Wenger, this isn't one he has specifically claimed – rather Roberto Carlos himself hinted at the move in 2003 as his Real Madrid career appeared to be winding down.

As it was, he ended up staying in Madrid until 2007 before moving on to Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala (remember them?) and Delhi Dynamos.

N'GOLO KANTE

The one who got away… Twice. That's right, Wenger says he tried to sign the industrious Kante when he was at Caen and Leicester City.

He played a starring role as the Foxes remarkably claimed the Premier League title in 2015-16, before then joining Chelsea and becoming the only player to win the Premier League in successive seasons with different clubs.

PAUL POGBA

When Pogba left United in 2012, a whole host of fellow European heavyweights were linked with him, including Arsenal, but Juventus swiftly struck a deal and the Gunners' attempts fell flat.

He of course left Juve again in 2016, though the then world-record fee United paid was never likely to be matched by Arsenal, and in 2018-19 Pogba became the first United player to appear in the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Team of the Year since Robin van Persie six years earlier.

YAYA TOURE

In hindsight, this one looks a particularly odd miss from Arsenal. Yaya Toure had a trial with the Gunners in 2003, a year after his brother Kolo signed for them, but wasn't particularly outstanding in a trial game and work permit difficulties made it tricky for him to join permanently.

That didn't stop him from enjoying a fine career, however, and he eventually made it to the Premier League in 2010 when joining Manchester City, with whom he became just the second African player to score in both an EFL Cup and FA Cup final.

LIONEL MESSI

That's right, the one you've been waiting for. In an alternate universe, Fabregas, Pique and Messi could have spent the best years of their careers in north London – Wenger attempted to prise all three away.

But six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had already gotten "too big" reputation-wise when Arsenal made their move. In Barcelona he stayed and he has since become LaLiga's all-time leading scorer with 445 goals in 488 games – a truly remarkable feat, though not as impressive as playing well against Stoke City on a cold Tuesday night, some might have you believe.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

In fairness to Wenger, he insists he has no regrets about not signing Ibrahimovic when he was a 17-year-old on trial. Whether he says as much privately is another matter.

Regardless, Ibrahimovic can console himself with the fact he has gone on to enjoy an incredibly successful career and scored Champions League goals for six different clubs, more than any other player in the competition's history. Unfortunately for him, however, he has never won European football's top prize.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

And finally, the other one you've been waiting for. Arguably the quintessential Wenger "nearly signed" claim relates to Ronaldo, whom he says almost joined Arsenal before United made their move in 2003. Like Buffon, Ronaldo also had discussions with Wenger over food, but he says the Gunners were pipped at the last.

Wenger apparently regards this as his biggest regret, and understandably so – Ronaldo has gone on to win everything in the game, including five Ballons d'Or, and is the Champions League's top scorer with 130 goals in 170 games.

Kylian Mbappe is the "prototype" for a future Ballon d'Or winner, according to Nicolas Anelka.

At just 21, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has already accumulated a plethora of top-tier trophies having won the World Cup with France, while reaching the Champions League final for PSG, with whom he has lifted eight domestic titles.

However, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo practically enjoying dual custody of the most prestigious world player of the year award, that honour has thus far eluded Mbappe.

But compatriot Anelka, whose career saw him win silverware in England, Spain, France, Italy and Turkey, feels it is only a matter of time.

"There are the old guys who are known and recognised, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but for me it is Mbappe who is really the image of the prototype of the striker with all the qualities required to be a future Ballon d'Or winner," he told RMC Sport. 

"He's very fast, very smart, very technical. He has the qualities to do great things. He has proven it time and time again and he shows it in every game.

"Neymar is very strong too. He is very strong too."

Mbappe has endured a disrupted start to the new campaign after testing positive for coronavirus, but he made a goalscoring return in the 3-0 win over Nice.

Thomas Tuchel's side are in action at Reims on Sunday.

Joachim Low believes Manuel Neuer's Champions League final performance shows he would have deserved the 2020 Ballon d'Or ahead of Bayern Munich team-mate Robert Lewandowski.

France Football announced it would not present its annual award for the world's best player this year due to the coronavirus pandemic which halted some domestic competitions in 2019-20, including Ligue 1.

The decision has prompted suggestions Lewandowski has been harshly treated, having appeared the standout candidate to succeed Lionel Messi after his 55 goals fired Bayern to a stunning treble.

The striker, who was named Germany's Footballer of the Year, last week agreed he deserved the global honour.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge claimed earlier in August hope was not lost as FIFA had promised there would be a vote for the world's best player.

But Low, the Germany head coach, claims Bayern captain Neuer should pip Lewandowski to any award.

The goalkeeper was outstanding in the 1-0 Champions League triumph over Paris Saint-Germain, keeping Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at bay.

"Manu was in great shape throughout the 2019-20 season," Low told Kicker. "Manu is in a class of his own. Crazy, unbelievable.

"I have nothing against Robert Lewandowski - he is a top-class goalscorer - but, for me, the world's best footballer this year would be Manuel Neuer.

"What he has just done in this final round in Lisbon... He kept the door closed at the back.

"He had a very large role in winning the Champions League. Manuel was on hand in difficult situations against Lyon and Paris, otherwise it might be 0-1 or 1-1.

"You have the feeling that he is omnipresent."

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski believes he would deserve the Ballon d'Or if the award had not been cancelled for 2020.

France Football confirmed in July that the prize would not be awarded due to the disruption of the 2019-20 season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewandowski would almost certainly have been one of the favourites for the men's trophy this year, having scored 55 goals in all competitions to propel Bayern to a treble of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League titles for the second time.

The 32-year-old insists the Ballon d'Or was never on his mind this term, but he thinks he would have been a worthy winner.

"I didn't think about it at all. I knew we still had the Champions League, then the Bundesliga restarted after the short break," he told Onet and Przeglad Sportowy when asked for his view on the award being cancelled.

"I knew my priorities. My focus was on the Champions League, not on any possible individual awards. The decision to cancel the gala was made in the middle of the year and the Ballon d'Or was to be staged in December. The deadline was too distant to occupy my mind."

When asked which player he would have given the award to, he replied: "Myself. We won everything there was to win. I won the award for top goalscorer in every competition. I think a player who achieves this would win the Ballon d'Or."

Bayern's 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain saw Lewandowski win the Champions League for the first time in his career, something he admitted had been a childhood dream.

The Poland international was particularly emotional during post-match interviews but said the moment that truly touched him was when his wife sent him videos of family members reacting to the result.

"Until now, I was hiding emotions behind a thick shell, but the Champions League is every footballer's dream and I've believed all my life that I could fulfil it," he said.

"I was close many times, but something was missing, something was causing us to be knocked out early. Now that we'd won it, there was a childlike joy, something natural and spontaneous. I had no control over it.

"The most beautiful moment after the game was when I called my wife. She sent me videos of my loved ones crying with happiness. It was something amazing. It's what I will remember the most after many years."

While he has no plans to retire any time soon, one of Lewandowski's remaining objectives is to bring joy to Poland fans on the international stage.

"One of my dreams has now come true and I feel huge satisfaction," he added. "Another one is to make the fans of the national team proud of us. What exactly that means, I can't answer myself. I can't really describe it; I just want the fans to feel happy cheering us on."

Robert Lewandowski would deserve the Ballon d'Or if the award were being given in 2020, former Portugal striker Nuno Gomes says.

Lewandowski scored a remarkable 55 goals in all competitions, including 15 in the Champions League, to propel Bayern to a treble of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League triumphs.

France Football elected not to award the Ballon d'Or this year due to the disruption of the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gomes believes that decision is particularly unfair on Lewandowski, who has spent the past 24 hours celebrating Bayern's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final.

"I think he deserves to [win] the Ballon d'Or if the prize were happening," Gomes, speaking at the Nissan UCL Final Watch Party, told Stats Perform News.

"He is a striker that is lethal if you're playing against him. You have to also keep an eye on him because, if you give him a little bit of space, he will score.

"One of the best strikers at the moment, for sure."

Kylian Mbappe, another future Ballon d'Or hopeful, endured a frustrating outing in Sunday's final in Lisbon and spurned an excellent chance to put PSG ahead in the first half.

Still, Gomes has no doubt the 21-year-old will become at least one of the top three players in the world.

"Mbappe has a lot of room to grow," he said. "I believe that, if things develop in his career normally, he will be one of the best players that the next generation will hear about for the next years.

"He has a lot of potential, he's a pure talent, he has speed, he decides the game sometimes. So, I think in the next years we will hear about his name in the top three footballers in the world."

Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo has the potential to win the Ballon d'Or, according to former Giallorossi head coach Fabio Capello. 

The 21-year-old midfielder has shone since Serie A resumed following the coronavirus-enforced break, having previously thought his season would be curtailed when he tore a knee ligament in January. 

Zaniolo produced a superb performance in the 3-1 win at Juventus on Saturday, marking his first start since the reverse fixture on January 12 with a fine assist for Diego Perotti's second goal. 

Capello believes the Italy international is a rare talent in world football. 

"Zaniolo has physical power and strength and extraordinary quality," he said on Sky Sport Italia. 

"He has potential not just for the [European] Golden Shoe, but he can aspire to something more, to the Ballon d'Or. 

"I'm in love with Zaniolo. Everything is there in terms of strength, quality and speed, at the highest level. 

"Other players have this potential, but not at his level." 

Zaniolo, who joined from Inter in 2018, has made 32 appearances in all competitions for Roma in 2019-20. 

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes the decision for there to be no 2020 Ballon d'Or winner is "not very fair", as he feels Robert Lewandowski could have claimed the award.

France Football announced last week it would not select the world's best player this year due to a "lack of sufficient fair conditions" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The global crisis caused the sport to come to a standstill in March, although the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Bundesliga were among the competitions to restart.

France's Ligue 1 was one of the leagues that were not completed, however, playing into the decision not to go ahead with the award.

Lewandowski has scored 51 goals in all competitions in the best season of his career, helping Bayern to win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal, while a treble bid remains very much alive in the Champions League.

Rummenigge thinks he would have been a worthy Ballon d'Or winner.

"I believe Robert Lewandowski is playing a fantastic season and he performed maybe the best season in his career," Rummenigge told a news conference on Monday.

"Unfortunately, France Football cancelled the Ballon d'Or, which we are not very happy [about]. In the end, it's not very fair - not just for Bayern but also for Robert Lewandowski, who might have won.

"I believe it's very important that in a season that, except the French league, [were] performed through to the end of the season, it has to be possible to give the Ballon d'Or to the best footballer in the world.

"Of course, I believe, in those circumstances, Robert would have a good chance to win it for the first time in his career."

Lewandowski has never been in the top three at the annual awards, but was fourth in 2015 after an excellent first season at Bayern.

Barcelona great Lionel Messi won the 2019 Ballon d'Or for a record sixth time.

There will be no Ballon d'Or awarded in 2020 due to a "lack of sufficient fair conditions", France Football has announced.

The French publication, which organises football's most prestigious individual prize, believes the effects of the coronavirus pandemic upon the sport at the elite level means it would be unfair to declare a 2020 winner.

In a list of reasons published to explain the decision, France Football said it "did not want to put an indelible asterisk" on the trophy due to present circumstances, adding "we will always prefer a small sprain (to our history) to a large scar".

It will be the first time since the Ballon d'Or launched in 1956 that its ballot to decide the finest player in the world will not be taken.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi claimed the top prize for a record sixth time in 2019, with United States forward Megan Rapinoe lifting the Ballon d'Or Feminin.

Football across the world shut down in March as COVID-19 spread rapidly.

Although the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga have all since returned behind closed doors, Ligue 1 was one of the competitions to cancel its 2019-20 schedule.

"A singular year cannot - and should not - be treated as an ordinary year. When in doubt, it is better to abstain than to persist," France Football said.

"The fairness that prevails for this honorary title could not be preserved, in particular at the statistical level and also in terms of preparation since all the aspirants to the award could not be housed in the same boat, some having seen their season cut off radically, others not. So how do you compare the incomparable?"

The statement concluded: "The Ballon d'Or story is too precious to take the risk of damaging it with a wobbly exercise. In these turbulent times, taking a break is a luxury and an invaluable necessity. So that football, as a whole, regains momentum and passion and emotion."

Real Madrid's hunger to return from lockdown at their best is what has given them an advantage in the title race, Zinedine Zidane believes.

Madrid can win LaLiga for the first time in three seasons should they defeat Villarreal on Thursday, or if Barcelona drop points against Osasuna.

Los Blancos need only two points from their final two matches of the season to claim their 34th top-flight crown.

Zidane insists there is no complacency within his squad and lauded the desire with which his players returned with following the three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"No, not at all," Zidane said in a news conference when asked if his side already felt like champions.

"The beautiful thing we have is the energy we put in every day, day by day is what motivates us. The rest, we don't know what will happen.

"The players when they get here know the history of this club, what it is, what it wants, the ambition we always have.

"The particular thing about now is that after the confinement, when we returned to work, after staying home almost three months, the players wanted to do great things.

"You could see it in training. You could see it in games, but I see them in training, they trained phenomenally, they wanted to stay afterwards and that tells you everything."

Though his side require only two more points, due to their head-to-head record with Barca this term, Zidane is demanding victory.

"I would not want two draws. It is not what I prefer or not, it is that we are here for one thing, to think about tomorrow's game and win it," he added.

"It is what motivates us. We prepare for that. Villarreal knows how to play, it is a very difficult opponent, as always. I think it will be the most difficult of the last ones we have had."

Karim Benzema's sensational form has been a driving force in Madrid's title tilt, with the Frenchman having scored 19 LaLiga goals this season.

There have been suggestions Benzema should be in the running for this year's Ballon d'Or award and Zidane claimed every Madrid player could be worthy of the prize.

"In football, everyone can have a say. For me, my players are the best," Zidane said.

"Karim is not only this year, he has done very well for many years. The Ballon d'Or is won by only one, and everyone can comment, but for me all my players deserve it."

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick said Robert Lewandowski can win the Ballon d'Or after taking his season tally to 51 goals after the German champions won the DFB-Pokal title.

Lewandowski scored twice as Bayern eased past Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 on Saturday to retain their DFB-Pokal crown and wrap up a domestic double for the second successive season.

After David Alaba and Serge Gnabry put Bayern ahead, Lewandowski took centre stage in the second half with goals in the 59th and 89th minutes behind closed doors in Berlin.

It continued Lewandowski's red-hot form in 2019-20 after the Poland international star exceeded half a century of goals across all competitions this term.

Lewandowski topped the Bundesliga charts with 34 goals to lead Bayern to an eighth consecutive title, while he has netted 11 in the Champions League as Europe's premier club competition prepares to return next month.

And Flick backed Lewandowski for Ballon d'Or glory post-match, telling reporters: "Fifty-one goals are already very strong. The first goal Lewy scored, the third goal we scored, was already excellent.

"The way he takes the ball down there and the way he locks up. Of course, he's had a bit of luck with that as well. But that's what distinguishes him, that he has this confidence in his quality.

"If I measure for goals now and I see that he has scored 34 goals in the Bundesliga this year, then you can think about how a player from the Bundesliga can become the Ballon d'Or winner. So why not? He has laid all the groundwork with this achievement this year and I would wish him well."

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or in 2019, edging Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The last Bayern player to receive the individual honour was Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in 1981.

Cristiano Ronaldo's impact at Real Madrid was truly phenomenal – there's certainly an argument for him being the greatest signing in the history of the sport.

But when his move from Manchester United to the Santiago Bernabeu was completed on June 26, 2009, there was certainly more than a hint of scepticism.

Let's not forget, when Madrid paid a reported €94million (£80m) for him, Ronaldo became the most expensive footballer ever at the time, breaking a record that had stood for eight years.

There were plenty of people suggesting Madrid had paid over the odds for him, but now we all know what a remarkable signing he was for Los Blancos and Spanish football until his departure for Juventus in 2018.

On the 11th anniversary of Ronaldo joining Madrid, we look back on his time with the club and his legacy, with a little help from Opta.

The early years – finding another level

Ronaldo had already won the Ballon d'Or during his time at Old Trafford, so his quality was never in doubt, but a haul of 33 goals across all competitions in his first season with Los Blancos was an impressive start, particularly given it was an increase of eight on his final campaign in England.

But it was just the tip of the iceberg. As it would turn out, 2009-10 was the only one of Ronaldo's nine seasons with Madrid in which he failed to reach the 40-goal mark.

Granted, the Portugal star played significantly more games over the next few years, but to maintain that consistency – and arguably improve on it – over 50-plus matches without suffering fatigue is genuinely remarkable.

In 2010-11 Ronaldo claimed his first trophy for the club – the Copa del Rey – and had a hand in 69 goals (53 scored, 16 assisted) in 54 matches. He then improved on that further the next year, his 60 goals and 15 assists helping Madrid to their first LaLiga title in four years and the Champions League semi-finals.

By 2012, Ronaldo was already finding himself mentioned in debates regarding the "greatest player of all time" – that would only intensify in the coming years.

Sustaining greatness

The Champions League has long been an obsession of Real Madrid's, and so too it became a major goal of Ronaldo's – after all, three successive last-four eliminations meant five full seasons passed without the forward lifting the famous trophy.

For Madrid, the barren run had been even longer. They'd been chasing 'La Decima' since 2002, but finally, in 2013-14, the wait was over – Ronaldo's 65 goal involvements (51 goals, 14 assists) leading them to a European and Copa del Rey double. His late penalty in the 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid that saw them crowned Champions League kings took his tally to 17 goals for the season in that competition, a record.

Three more Champions League titles followed over the next four years, though 2014-15 – when Ronaldo enjoyed the best individual season of his career with 61 goals and 21 assists – was the anomaly. He would only score in one of those three finales, however, the 4-1 over future employers Juventus, though he did net the decisive shoot-out spot-kick a year to again break Atletico hearts in 2016.

Ronaldo's final two years in Madrid saw the club win a total of eight trophies, while he scored 86 times and moved level for a while on five Ballon d'Or wins with Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo became synonymous with the Real Madrid brand – it became difficult to imagine the two without each other, but in 2018 they parted ways, ending one of the most iconic player-club associations in modern football.

The legacy

Across his nine years with Madrid, Ronaldo scored 450 goals and laid on another 119. The former figure makes him the club's all-time leading scorer.

He surpassed Raul (323) in October 2015, having already cruised past the like of Ferenc Puskas, Carlos Santillana and Alfredo Di Stefano.

Of those goals, 311 came in LaLiga, a figure only Messi (440) can better – though the Argentina star has spent his entire career in Spanish football.

While all defenders are likely to have been glad to see Ronaldo leave LaLiga, he had a particular penchant for netting against a select few teams. Barcelona (18), Celta Vigo (20), Atletico Madrid (22), Getafe (23) and Sevilla (27) were his most frequent victims.

But it wasn't just LaLiga opposition against whom he thrived – he was the first player to score 10 Champions League goals in seven successive seasons and to reach a haul of 100 in the competition for a single club.

At the age of 35, he continues to excel for Juve in Serie A. But it was with Madrid where his impact was most felt, and it will be a long time before the club see anything even remotely comparable again, if they ever do.

Neymar will be the leading contender for the Ballon d'Or if he guides Paris Saint-Germain to Champions League glory in August, according to Kaka.

PSG have not played a competitive game since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, though they were declared Ligue 1 champions when the season was curtailed in April.

Thomas Tuchel's team will therefore be fresh when they head into a re-formatted Champions League finale in six weeks.

Due to international travel restrictions, the last eight of Europe's premier club competition will head to Lisbon for a mini-tournament of single-leg knockout games played across 12 days to decide the title.

PSG will take part after Neymar scored in both legs of their last-16 elimination of Borussia Dortmund before the season was put on hold.

Kaka won the Ballon d'Or in 2007 and was the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to receive the award until Luka Modric took it in 2018.

The former Real Madrid and Milan star thinks inspiring PSG to their first Champions League trophy would put Neymar in line for similar recognition.

Asked if Brazil had any candidates for the Ballon d'Or, Kaka told Globo Esporte: "The first is Ney, who is a strong favourite.

"I believe Neymar is one of the best players today. Whether he wins the award will depend on the team achievement he is part of.

"Now, let's look at this Champions League final in Lisbon: Neymar being the protagonist, Paris Saint-Germain the champions.

"Neymar deservedly wins the award for best player in the world."

The Champions League quarter-finals will start on August 12, with four last-16 ties to be settled the week prior.

Robert Lewandowski says the Ballon d'Or is not his focus but that "anything is possible" when it comes to winning the award.

The Bayern Munich striker has never been in the top three for football's most prestigious individual prize, his best record coming when he finished fourth in the standings in 2015.

The 31-year-old is likely to be in the running for the 2020 prize, though, having scored 45 goals in all competitions to put Bayern on the brink of another Bundesliga title.

Should Hansi Flick's side also win the DFB-Pokal and Champions League this term, Lewandowski would be a strong candidate to become just the second player other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award since 2007.

"I was at the award ceremony last December," Lewandowski told France Football.

"We'll see. What I try to do is to always show the best of myself, win trophies and score more goals. But that's something that comes with collective trophies. That's the most important thing.

"I don't even think about the Ballon d'Or, even if, in my life, I believe that anything is possible."

Lewandowski puts his spectacular form down to a careful regimen of diet and training to keep mentally and physically sharp.

"I don't eat meat on the day of a match. It's too heavy for my body. I eat light – that's what I need," he explained.

"The meal depends on several things: when is the game, what time is it...

"If you eat rice or pasta, it will bring you big benefits in terms of energy in the very short term. But, over time, you gain nothing.

"It's not easy [to score] especially when you are tired. With 90 per cent of goals, it's the head that does the work and it's influenced by your level of concentration.

"If you're tired, your thinking will automatically be slower. In the penalty area, we have only 0.1 seconds, maybe 0.2, to think, make our decision and interact with the ball.

"That's why we come to training, because there is no other place to build automatic movements and shots. Whether it's left foot, right foot, whatever, you have to be ready. You don't even have to think about it – you have to do it."

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