Cristiano Ronaldo thanked his Portugal team-mates for helping him to surpass Michel Platini as the European Championship's outright all-time record goalscorer with his double against Hungary.

The 36-year-old scored a penalty late on in Tuesday's Group F clash to move one in front of Platini – who netted all nine of his goals in the 1984 edition – at the top of the competition's scoring charts.

He added to his tally in added time as Portugal, who opened the scoring through Raphael Guerreiro's 84th-minute strike in Budapest, became the first team in the history of the Euros to score three goals in the final 10 minutes of a game.

Ronaldo is also the first man to play and score in five separate European Championships and now has an even greater record in sight, the Juventus forward just three shy of Ali Daei's world record of 109 international goals.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner will have an opportunity to close in on Daei's impressive tally when Portugal take on Germany in Munich in their next group outing on Saturday.

Speaking after Portugal's late win against Hungary in front of around 61,000 spectators – the most at any game at this year's tournament – Ronaldo said: "It was important to win. It was a difficult game. 

"Hungary defended very well for 90 minutes. We managed to score three goals and I am very grateful to the team for helping me to score twice and collect the man of the match award. 

"It was essential to go in with the right foot to give confidence. Now we have to just keep going, keep going. We will look to win the next game."

 

It looked like being a day of frustration for reigning European champions Portugal before a late flurry of goals gave them their joint-record margin of victory at the Euros, alongside 3-0 wins against Croatia in 1996 and Germany in 2000.

Head coach Fernando Santos was pleased with the way his side adapted to overcome their stubborn opponents as Portugal won their first game at a major tournament for the first time in six attempts.

"They kept putting two or three players on top of Cristiano," he told SIC Noticias. "Our strategy was not to cross, cross, cross. We had to look for different paths and we scored a goal, then Hungary started opening up some space.

"If we had scored earlier it might have been easier for us. We had chances to score but didn't, which caused a small period of anxiety, though we recovered well in the end by scoring the goals.

"It was a case of making Ronaldo more open because Guerreiro was getting stuck. Now we have two important games to come and we will try our best to get through this stage."

Hungary came within six minutes of taking a point off Portugal, but they are now winless in their past four games at the European Championship and have matches against France and Germany to come in an extremely tough group.

"I'm disappointed with the result," Hungary coach Marco Rossi said at his post-match news conference. "There wasn't much difference between the two teams. We didn't have luck today. 

"But we have to show that we're men. We are representing Hungary and we have two more equally difficult games ahead of us.

"We were happy with the game until the 83rd minute, but then the three goals came. Maybe it was my fault for taking too much risk. I'm not sad about the performance, but disappointed with the result."

It was all looking rather good for Hungary. The Magyars, who held Portugal to gripping 3-3 draw five years ago, looked to be doing something similar in their Euro 2020 opener. Just without the goals.

But Portugal, inspired by a hint of fortune, exploded into life and Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage to show the doubters just how decisive he can be.

Fernando Santos' men sealed a 3-0 win with all of their goals coming from the 84th minute onwards, becoming the first side in European Championship history to net three times in the final 10 minutes of a game.

Raphael Guerreiro got things started, his effort taking a massive deflection of Willi Orban to finally end the resistance of Hungary, who themselves had a goal disallowed for offside only a few minutes earlier, and then Ronaldo took over.

With lively substitute Rafa Silva sent tumbling in the box by Orban, whose evening quickly descended into farce, Ronaldo stepped up to smashed the penalty beyond Peter Gulacsi in the Hungary goal.

He then rounded off a brilliant passing move with some outrageous play before tucking in Portugal's third – but that was just the tip of the iceberg on what was a momentous night for the Selecao's greatest ever player.

 

From frustration to flawless

Ronaldo flapped his arms around in dismay. Yes, you can picture it – you've seen it countless times before.

The game was just five minutes old when the Juventus superstar was screaming at Diogo Jota, who had opted for a 20-yard shot instead of slipping Ronaldo – in masses of space to his left – into the penalty area.

Given Ronaldo almost doubled up as Fernando Santos' assistant after being injured in the 2016 final, you had to wonder whether he would demand Jota be withdrawn immediately.

As it was, Jota stayed on and his presence again seemed a distraction just before half-time when he dangled a leg near Bruno Fernandes' smashed delivery, with Ronaldo only able to hammer over from a few yards out.

He didn't have another shot until the 87th minute – that's how quiet he was generally kept by Hungary's defence – but that next effort proved a historic one. As Ronaldo confidently drove his penalty past Gulacsi, he surpassed Michel Platini as the all-time leading scorer in the European Championship with 10 goals.

 

While the Frenchman got all nine of his in one tournament, Euro '84, and in just five games, Ronaldo has needed a little longer – this was his 22nd appearance.

But if reaching such a milestone with a penalty (we see you, users of the 'Penaldo' nickname...) wasn't going to be satisfying enough, he duly extended his new record with a lovely goal.

Ronaldo exchanged a glorious one-two with Rafa Silva, skilfully rounded Gulacsi and then tapped home – it was the kind of goal that could draw a hearty chuckle from anyone, so good was the build-up and subsequent composure from the veteran forward.

All 11 of his Euros goals have been from inside the box, though the record-breaker was actually his first successful penalty. His brace here means he now has four goals in the final 15 minutes of games, more than in any other period of matches.

His second goal also took a record from Andriy Shevchenko, as it made Ronaldo the oldest player to score twice in a Euros match.

 

More records on the way?

Don't expect this to be the last we hear from Ronaldo at this tournament.

More historic achievements and records are just a matter of a few goals away, and given his ruthless impact at the end on Tuesday, few would bet against him picking up where he left off next time.

Granted, Germany and France should prove sterner opposition than Hungary, but a player close to such records can be fancied to deliver the good against anyone.

His next landmark in sight is Miroslav Klose's haul of 19 in the World Cup and Euros – no European player has netted more at those tournaments, and Ronaldo is now just one behind him thanks to this brace.

But more importantly than that is Ali Daei's world record international haul of 109.

With two here, Ronaldo is now just three behind the former Iran striker, whose record looked insurmountable after his retirement in 2006.

It's only really been since he turned 30 that Ronaldo has looked likely to reach or surpass Daei. After all, his record since the start of 2016 for Portugal is 51 goals in 53 matches.

Perhaps we should have learned our lesson from watching Ronaldo over the years, however.. No goalscoring milestone is beyond him, it seems.

Cristiano Ronaldo made European Championship history on two fronts as Portugal staged a late show to begin their campaign with a 3-0 win over Hungary.

Also pitted against world champions France and Germany in the toughest group of the tournament, hitting the ground was viewed as key for Fernando Santos' side.

It looked as if they would fail to do that in front of over 60,000 fans in Budapest, but Raphael Guerreiro's deflected strike finally gave them the lead six minutes from time.

And then Ronaldo – who became the first man to play in five different Euros – took centre stage as he broke the tournament goalscoring record with his 10th goal in the competition proper, emphatically dispatching a penalty after Willi Orban had brought down Rafa Silva.

There was a final flourish from the Juventus star, who capped a wonderful move to take his tally to 11 in the second minute of stoppage time.

Cristiano Ronaldo is now the all-time leading goalscorer in European Championship history after netting in Portugal's Euro 2020 opener against Hungary.

Ronaldo went into the tournament level with France great Michel Platini but his penalty late on in Budapest to move his side 2-0 ahead put him out in front.

The Juventus star was making his 22nd European Championship appearance. Platini needed just five games to reach his nine-goal haul, all of which came at Euro 84.

Ronaldo has other records in his sights at this tournament as well.

His spot-kick against Hungary has taken him to within two of Miroslav Klose's record (19) for the most goals scored by a European player at the World Cup and Euros.

Though arguably even greater than that is the fact Ronaldo is now just four behind Ali Daei's world record of 109 international goals, the Iranian scoring those in a 13-year period from 1993.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo wants defending champions Portugal to make a statement in their Group F opener against Hungary as he prepares to make history at Euro 2020.

Ronaldo will become the first player to feature in five European Championships in front of a crowd of around 65,000 at the Puskas Arena on Tuesday,

The legendary Juventus forward needs only one goal to be the outright leading goalscorer in the competition, as he is currently level with Michel Platini with nine.

Portugal captain Ronaldo is also only one appearance shy of going out on his own as the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments - currently sharing a record of 38 with Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The 36-year-old says retaining the trophy is at the forefront of his mind and knows Portugal must make a strong start in Budapest, with France and Germany their other opponents in such a tough group.

He said: "I'm not overwhelmed. It's a good record but more important than this is to win back-to-back European Championships. The team is quite well and working great.

"Since our first training sessions, the team has been great and we are all ready. Tomorrow I hope we can start on the right foot.

"It's important that we start with a victory, the crowd will be on their side, but it's good to play in front of a crowd. We are going to enjoy this and, as I said, the team is ready."

Hungary led Portugal three times in a 3-3 draw at Euro 2016, Ronaldo scoring a second-half brace in a thriller.

The holders, who lost Joao Cancelo for the tournament due to a positive coronavirus test and replaced him with Diogo Dalot, are unbeaten in 13 games against Hungary - winning nine and drawing four.

Hungary should not be short of confidence, though, as they come into the tournament without being beaten in nine competitive matches.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hungary – Willi Orban

Centre-back Willi Orban was Hungary's top scorer in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, with all three of his goals coming from set-pieces.

Among defenders, only Mats Hummels (129 for Borussia Dortmund) won more aerial duels than Orban's 108 for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga last season.

Portugal – Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes can have a huge say in whether Portugal retain the title.

The Manchester United midfielder created more goalscoring chances than any other Premier League player with 95 last season. He also scored twice and laid a goal for Ronaldo in Portugal's final warm-up game, a 4-0 rout of Israel.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Portugal are bidding to become the second team to win back-to-back, a feat also achieved by Spain in 2008 and 2021.
- Hungary were unbeaten in the group stages in their last appearance at the European Championship (W1 D2 in 2016).
- Portugal have failed to win their opening game in the past five major tournaments, drawing three times and losing twice. Their last opening game victory was at Euro 2008 against Turkey (2-0).
- The defending champions are the only team to reach the knockout stages of the European Championship in each of the previous six editions.

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo insists his sole focus is on Euro 2020 and reports of interest from rival clubs are causing him no "sleepless nights".

Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juve in 2019, but the move has not worked out quite as planned.

Although the Bianconeri won the Serie A title for a ninth successive season in the forward's first campaign, they lost their crown to Inter this term and scraped Champions League qualification.

Success in Europe's premier club competition, which Ronaldo won five times with Manchester United and Madrid, continues to evade the Turin giants.

A frustrating season ended with Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Andrea Pirlo, and there has been speculation Ronaldo could follow his coach out of the door.

Madrid, United and Paris Saint-Germain have been credited with an interest in a player who continues to deliver superb individual results.

Ronaldo's 29 goals in 2020-21 won the Capocannoniere, having previously also been the top scorer in the Premier League and LaLiga.

Since joining Juve, only Robert Lewandowski (103) has scored more goals in all competitions than Ronaldo's 73 among players in Europe's top five leagues.

The 36-year-old's 83 goal involvements rank fourth behind Lewandowski (121), Lionel Messi (106) and Kylian Mbappe (97).

Those returns would surely interest a host of clubs, but Ronaldo is not looking any further ahead than the Euros, with Portugal starting their title defence against Hungary on Tuesday.

"I've been playing at the highest level for many years. This doesn't faze me at all," Ronaldo said ahead of the Hungary game.

"If I were starting out, if I were 18 or 19, I'd have some sleepless nights. But I'm 36 years old and whatever comes will be for the best

"Regardless of staying in Juve or being transferred, the crucial thing is the Euros. For me, it's my fifth Euros, but it's like my first. I want to start on the right foot and we want to play a good match."

 

Ronaldo holds the record for the most games (21), most goals (nine, tied with Michel Platini) and most tournaments with at least one goal (four) at the European Championship.

With 104 international goals, he is also closing on Ali Daei's benchmark of 109.

Adding to that tally in the group stage of Euro 2020 will be tough, though, with Portugal drawn into a pool with Hungary, France and Germany. They have not won their opening game at a tournament since Euro 2008.

But Ronaldo is confident his side are ready, explaining: "If you tell me that we're going to lose tomorrow and win the Euros, that's my choice.

"But I think the team is ready, physically and emotionally. Our players are young, but that doesn't prevent us from dreaming. I'm sure we will have a great tournament and I know, for sure, all the players are ready."

Only Spain, in 2008 and 2012, have previously won back-to-back European Championships.

"We are not the same team as we were in 2016," Ronaldo added. "This is a younger team, a team with great potential and only by playing will we know if we are better or worse than 2016.

"On a personal level, I'm not the same player I was 18 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago. We keep adjusting. The most intelligent thing about a football player is the ability to adjust.

"I'm more mature. If a player wants to play for many years, he needs to know how to adjust and adapt.

"The numbers speak for themselves; from 18 to 36, I've learned to adapt regardless of winning silverware.

"On a personal level, I've always been able to win. The same on a collective level, too. I think I've adjusted throughout my career."

Achraf Hakimi is a player in demand following his first season with Inter.

Hakimi helped Inter to Serie A glory for the first time in 10 years, but his future could be away from San Siro.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly determined to beat Chelsea and Bayern Munich to the full-back.

 

TOP STORY – PSG CHASING HAKIMI

Paris Saint-Germain remain interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

PSG had a €60million (£51m) bid turned down by Serie A champions Inter, who are facing financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic amid speculation over stars Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni and Hakimi.

Ligue 1 giants PSG are still keen on Hakimi as Champions League winners Chelsea hold talks with the Morocco international's agent, while Bayern Munich have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

Bernardo Silva wants to leave Premier League champions Manchester City, reports Duncan Castles. The Portugal international has already been linked with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona after finding himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Gianluigi Buffon is close to re-joining Parma. Buffon will leave Juventus in the off-season and the Italy great is reportedly on track to return to Parma, where the 43-year-old emerged from the youth team in 1995 before eventually moving to Turin in 2001. Parma were relegated from Serie A in 2020-21.

Arsenal have turned their attention to Real Betis attacker Nabil Fekir but Diario AS says the Gunners and LaLiga side remain apart in his transfer valuation.

- Calciomercato claims there are still concerns over Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus. Dybala is out of contract in 2022 and no closer to renewing after struggling for game time. The possible departure of Cristiano Ronaldo – who has been linked with PSG and Manchester United – could solidify Dybala's position in Turin.

Leicester City are the latest team to join the race for Salzburg's Patson Daka, according to the Mirror. Liverpool, Chelsea and RB Leipzig have also been linked.

- The Mirror reports Everton and Leeds United are considering moves for veteran Real Madrid star Marcelo.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still an elite talent who has no plans to slow down, according to new Roma boss Jose Mourinho.

Juventus forward Ronaldo has been linked with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain after his side failed to retain their Serie A title and struggled in the Champions League last season.

The 36-year-old himself, though, had another productive campaign, topping the Serie A goalscoring charts with 29 goals and finishing with 36 in all competitions.

Mourinho managed Ronaldo at Real Madrid and is now set to face him with Roma, unless his former player does indeed make a move.

"He should leave Italy now and leave me in peace!" Mourinho joked in an interview with talkSPORT.

"Everybody says, and I say the same, he is not 25 any more. He is 36 and he doesn't score 50 goals, but how many did he score? The record is [still] incredible, the numbers speak by themselves."

Ronaldo is preparing to play a part in Euro 2020 with Portugal as the country bid to retain their continental title which was won five years ago.

He will be just months from his 38th birthday by the time of the next World Cup in Qatar and Mourinho thinks that event is among many factors which have motivated the veteran to remain at the highest level.

Asked what drove Ronaldo on, Mourinho said: "I think records and he wants to not just play in this Euros but the World Cup.

"He is a legend, one of the big names that stays forever in football history, but the guy motivates himself with numbers and new things.

"He wants to win the gold ball X times, the golden boot X times, he wants to get the record from the Iran player for goals for an international team."

Mourinho does not think Ronaldo gets particularly angry by negative comparisons to Lionel Messi and feels he uses any criticism as fuel.

"I think critics motivate him," said Mourinho. "I think he feels, 'If people criticise me, it's because of who I am, I did what I did and I'll still try to do it'.

"He still gets that extra motivation. As an opponent, you should be quiet and not say a wrong word about him because that will always be motivation for him.

"He is the player everyone thinks he is and he is mentally very, very strong."

Ronaldo and Portugal start their Euros campaign against Hungary on Tuesday, with a strong start essential given France and Germany are also in Group F. 

But Portugal have failed to win their first game in the last five major tournaments, their last success in an opener coming at Euro 2008 against Turkey.

Ronaldo holds the Euros tournament record for most games (21), and most goals (9, joint with Michel Platini).

The Jadon Sancho saga continues.

A move to Manchester United has long been mooted for England international Sancho.

While United and Borussia Dortmund negotiate, could Sancho's future be set to become clearer?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED HAVE OFFER REBUFFED

Manchester United have had their first offer for Jadon Sancho rejected by Borussia Dortmund, according to the BBC.

United have long been interested in Sancho, with the Premier League giants unable to prise Sancho from Dortmund before the 2020-21 season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United are back again for England international Sancho, though their initial £67million (€77.9m) bid will not suffice as Dortmund hold out for at least £77.5m (€90.1m).

 

ROUND-UP

- If United miss out on Sancho, Sport1 claims the Red Devils will turn to Kingsley Coman after registering their interest in the Bayern Munich winger.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are interested in Roma and Italy midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini. The 24-year-old is out of contract in 2022 and Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are also eyeing the Italian.

United and Liverpool are set to go head-to-head for Argentina defender Cristian Romero, per Calciomercato. Romero has impressed during his loan spell with Atalanta from Juventus. Atalanta are expected to trigger a clause to sign the 23-year-old permanently as they then look to receive a big fee.

- Ronald Koeman is the key to Barca signing Memphis Depay, reports Mundo Deportivo. Depay is a free agent following the conclusion of his Lyon contract.

Barcelona have offered Antoine Griezmann to Juve, according to Calciomercato. With Cristiano Ronaldo's future in Turin uncertain, Juve could be tempted by Griezmann's availability. Juve have also been linked with Tottenham star Harry Kane, who is reportedly wanted by United, Manchester City, Chelsea, BarcaReal Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Predicting the winner of a major international tournament is a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can sometimes be something of a fool's errand – as proven by Greece and Denmark.

But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data could potentially give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform comes in.

Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's check out the results, some of which may come as something of a surprise…

MOST-LIKELY WINNERS: France (20.5 per cent)

Well, this one probably isn't much of a shock. Anyone who has looked through the squad at Didier Deschamps' disposal has likely come to the conclusion that Les Bleus will have to implode a la the 2010 World Cup if they're to be beaten.

Most of the key players from their 2018 World Cup-winning squad are present, and now they can call upon the services of Karim Benzema again, which is no small thing.

 

Our model also gives France a 46.8 per cent chance of finish top of the so-called 'Group of Death', which also includes defending champions Portugal and a Germany side desperate for redemption after World Cup humiliation in Russia.

If France are successful, Deschamps will become the first man in history to win the World Cup and Euros as both a player and manager.

2. Belgium (15.7 per cent)

Could this be the last-chance saloon for Belgium's 'Golden Generation'? Our predictor model certainly suggests they're still in with a great chance of winning the title, with their 15.7 per cent the second highest.

They have the joint-oldest squad at the tournament (29.2 years) along with Sweden, so while they're certainly not a young team, several of their best players are right at the peak of their powers, with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku coming into the tournament arguably in the form of their lives.

 

They looked sharp in qualifying – for what it's worth – with a 100 per cent win record and a 40-goal haul that wasn't matched by any other team, while they will be strong favourites to win their group ahead of Russia, Denmark and Finland.

3. Spain (11.3 per cent)

Now, one thing our model cannot take into consideration is a coronavirus outbreak. La Roja had to field their Under-21s for the senior side's final pre-Euros warm-up game against Lithuania – while it means nothing for their chances at the tournament, they did ease to a 4-0 win.

It remains to be seen if there are any further consequences of Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente testing positive for COVID-19, but if we assume Luis Enrique is able to rely on a squad that's more or less the selection he initially picked, they will at least be strong options to reach the latter stages.

Although perhaps not blessed with the kind of 'superstar' talent they've had at other tournaments over the past 15 years or so, they do have a highly regarded coach and beat Germany 6-0 as recently as November. Nevertheless, their disrupted build-up to the tournament could be telling when their campaign starts.

4. Germany (9.8 per cent)

Joachim Low's going to have to upset the odds if he is to enjoy one last hurrah with Die Mannschaft. The World Cup-winner coach is stepping down a year early after the Euros, with Hansi Flick set to take over.

Having the likes of Thomas Muller back in the squad after a stunning couple of seasons with Bayern Munich will surely improve their chances – though our model doesn't take player data into account.

 

The predictor will see that Germany have failed to beat Denmark and North Macedonia in two of their three most recent games, while they also have a particularly hard group.

5. Portugal (9.6 per cent)

The other major footballing power from the 'Group of Death' – our predictor suggests Portugal are the least likely of themselves, France and Germany to win Euro 2020.

Nevertheless, La Selecao will surely feel good about themselves heading into the competition. Their squad is arguably significantly better than the one that won Euro 2016, while coach Fernando Santos is a shrewd operator.

They also have this chap up front called Cristiano Ronaldo, who is one away from setting a new record for the most goals (10) in European Championship history.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

According to our predictor, a resurgent Italy and Netherlands are the next most likely to win the tournament, which would represent a rather good turnaround from missing out on the 2018 World Cup – in fact, the Oranje weren't at Euro 2016 either.

At this point there are probably many of you pondering – assuming you've not just scrolled straight down to the list – about England's chances.

Well, the Three Lions' ranking here is a prime example of how a good draw can really pay. While they should – in theory, at least – have more than enough firepower to get out of a group that also contains Croatia, neighbours Scotland and Czech Republic, their route to the final would almost certainly see them come up against one – or more – of Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. They're also probably not helped by the fact they've played more Euros games (31) without reaching the final than any other team.

England's 5.2 per cent chance of success sees them behind Denmark (5.4 per cent), whose path to the final would likely be a little kinder, though the caveat is that the Three Lions could potentially play the vast majority of their matches on home soil at Wembley.

Tournament debutants North Macedonia are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the least likely to win Euro 2020, with their chances rated at 0.02 per cent.

 

6. Italy (7.6 per cent)

7. Netherlands (5.9 per cent)

8. Denmark (5.4 per cent)

9. England (5.2 per cent)

10. Switzerland (2.3 per cent)

11. Sweden (1.5 per cent)

12. Croatia (1.0 per cent)

13. Russia (1.0 per cent)

14. Poland (0.8 per cent)

15. Ukraine (0.8 per cent)

16. Wales (0.6 per cent)

17. Turkey (0.4 per cent)

18. Czech Republic (0.2 per cent)

19. Austria (0.2 per cent)

20. Finland (0.1 per cent)

21. Hungary (0.1 per cent)

22. Scotland (0.1 per cent)

23. Slovakia (0.04 per cent)

24. North Macedonia (0.02 per cent)

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America have the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Following club seasons either laden with trophies or padded with statistical achievements – or, in some cases, a bit of both – a few elite-level performances could make the difference in the race to win France Football's famous award.

Stats Perform has chosen a shortlist of 14 players who could make themselves Ballon d'Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month...

 

Karim Benzema

Remarkably, Karim Benzema failed to win a trophy with Real Madrid despite registering 30 goals and nine assists in 46 games in all competitions.

That form did bring his international exile to an end, though, and if he keeps it up for France over the coming month, a Ballon d'Or challenge is not out of the question.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Had Pep Guardiola's men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy, the Ballon d'Or might be De Bruyne's already. Leading Belgium to Euros glory would probably do the job.

Ruben Dias

The other prime candidate for City's player of the season, Ruben Dias was a colossal performer at the heart of their defence after joining from Benfica, winning the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

Defenders' difficulties winning big individual prizes are well documented, and the last to lift the Ballon d'Or – Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – did so after leading Italy to the World Cup.

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes was heartbroken to lose the Europa League final on penalties as his wait for a trophy with Manchester United goes on.

However, a combined 46 direct goal involvements – the most of any Premier League player – means individual glory could be on the cards should Fernandes and Portugal shine.

Phil Foden

The PFA Young Player of the Year winner, Phil Foden blossomed in 2020-21 from prodigious talent to integral player for both City and England.

His Ballon d'Or chances are probably slimmer than those of a couple of his City team-mates, but long-awaited success for the Three Lions could put him right in the mix.

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

Winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Kane is England's undisputed star going into Euro 2020 and has every chance of topping the scoring charts again.

N'Golo Kante

Arguably the popular choice for the award, N'Golo Kante won the Champions League with Chelsea after being named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final and the final against City.

France are most observers' favourites to win the Euros and, if they do, Kante will surely be facing short odds to win the ultimate individual trophy – even if it's one in which he has little interest.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Winning the Euros with Poland might be a stretch, but finishing as top goalscorer is certainly achievable.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

With eight goals in his past nine games for Belgium, the 28-year-old could well be the man to fire Roberto Martinez's side to glory, which would make him very hard to overlook.

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day. The Euros could be his ticket to glory in 2021.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it does put him right in the mix. If he can finally win the Copa America with Argentina, Ballon d'Or number seven may well follow.

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he has only an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

He typically produces in a Brazil shirt, though, and winning the Copa America would propel him right back into the mix for the individual prize he supposedly craves above all others.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

Ronaldo won his fourth of five Ballons d'Or after Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016, and there's little doubt he would be vying for a sixth if they defend that trophy.

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

Should Uruguay upset the odds at the Copa America, you can bet Suarez will be in the running for the Ballon d'Or. Quite what Barca fans would make of that is hard to say.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo's time in Turin coming to an end?

Juventus reportedly feel the end could be nigh.

Paris Saint-Germain are waiting in the wings…

 

TOP STORY –  RONALDO HEADING FOR EXIT?

Juventus are convinced Cristiano Ronaldo is considering his future with the Serie A giants, according to Goal.

Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Juve amid growing speculation, with Diario AS reporting Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with the superstar.

Juve and Ronaldo – also linked with his former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid – reportedly met on Thursday following the return of head coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has replaced Andrea Pirlo.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester City are the team most interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane, says Fabrizio Romano. Kane is reportedly looking to leave Spurs and the England striker has been linked with Premier League champions City, United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona. City are eyeing a replacement for Barca recruit Sergio Aguero, with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva also targets.

Tottenham are in talks with Son Heung-min over a contract extension, reports Romano.

- BBC Sport claims Alisson is set to hold contract talks with Liverpool. The Brazil international goalkeeper's current deal does not expire until 2024.

- Football Insider reports Everton's Richarlison is on Madrid's radar following the appointment of ex-Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti. Madrid have long been tipped to prise Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Juventus and PSG are in the race to sign Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. City and Inter have also been linked.

Memphis Depay is on the verge of completing a move to Barca on a three-year deal, per Diario Sport. Depay is available on a free transfer, with his Lyon contract expiring.

- The Yorkshire Evening Post claims Liverpool are among the teams interested in Leeds United's Raphinha. Manchester United and City are also believed to be among the possible suitors.

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

The Paris Saint-Germain star is a long-term target of Real Madrid.

With speculation over Cristiano Ronaldo's future, the two players could impact each other.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Kylian Mbappe potentially joining Real Madrid could see Cristiano Ronaldo swap Juventus for Paris Saint-Germain, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Mbappe has long been linked with LaLiga giants Madrid and a blockbuster move could impact Juve superstar Ronaldo.

If Ronaldo – also linked with Madrid and Manchester United – joins Ligue 1 powerhouse PSG, it could see Mauro Icardi leave Paris and land at Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

- Former Inter and Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte is in talks with Tottenham over a move to London, reports Gazzetta dello Sport and other media outlets. Conte is available after leaving Inter following their Serie A-winning season. Spurs have been linked with ex-coach and current PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, but they appear keen on Conte. Tottenham are also reportedly close to appointing former Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester City are willing to sell Bernardo Silva. It comes as City look to raise funds to bolster their attack after Sergio Aguero's exit amid strong links with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Tottenham forward Harry Kane. Eintracht Frankfurt's Andre Silva has also emerged as a target, though Atletico Madrid and United have also been linked.

- Miralem Pjanic could return to Italy via former club Juve or Inter, says Sport. Pjanic has struggled for game time under Ronald Koeman at Barca.

United remain interested in signing Atletico and England right-back Kieran Trippier, according to the Daily Mail. The Red Devils are also working on a deal for Madrid defender Raphael Varane and are still targeting Jadon Sancho of Dortmund.

- Football Insider claims Celtic have finalised a deal for Yokohama F.Marinos boss Ange Postecoglou to take charge of the Scottish giants.

For Carlo Ancelotti, the lure of Real Madrid proved too good to turn down. Again.

A first full season in charge at Everton had resulted in a 10th-place finish in the Premier League, though there was no sign of the Italian doing anything other than planning for the future at Goodison Park during the close-season.

Then, however, Zinedine Zidane left Madrid and everything changed. In a flash, Ancelotti is now back in the Spanish capital six years after Los Blancos said 'thanks, but no thanks', ending a first stint in charge that spanned two eventful years and included a historic Champions League triumph.

"What did Ancelotti do wrong? I don't know," club president Florentino Perez said when announcing Ancelotti's exit in 2015. The pair parted ways as work colleagues but the personal relationship remained intact, allowing them to come back together again.

Perez opted to dispense with Ancelotti despite him delivering 'La Decima', as well as the Copa del Rey and FIFA Club World Cup. He also boasted the best success rate of any head coach to be at Madrid for a minimum of 50 games at 74.8 per cent, winning 89 of his 119 games. That number eclipses Jose Mourinho (71.9 per cent) and comfortably Zidane, too (65.4 per cent).

However, there was no league title the first time around. Now the former Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss gets another crack at conquering LaLiga, with Los Blancos aiming to knock noisy neighbours Atletico Madrid off their perch.

Attack the best form of defence

There will be some familiar faces in the dressing room to greet Ancelotti upon his return, but also some notable absentees from the squad he left behind.

Across his previous reign, Madrid averaged 2.7 goals per game. That number was aided by the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the club's all-time leading scorer now taking up residence in Turin.

In LaLiga, Ancelotti's side led the way in terms of goals, getting 104 in 2013-14 and then 118 in the following campaign, eight more than a Barcelona squad led by Luis Enrique that clinched a famous treble. His Madrid averaged 18.1 shots per game – the same number as Zidane's side during his first stint – with a conversion rate of 14.9 per cent.

The Frenchman's time between January 2016 and May 2018 sees similarities in terms of attacking numbers to the period under Ancelotti, the common denominator being they both had the irrepressible Ronaldo to call upon.

Zidane's comeback saw a different Madrid, one that attempted more passes – they averaged out at 596.5 per game, compared to 576 previously – but dipped in terms of attacking output, their goals-per-outing number dropping from 2.6 to 1.8.

There was an over-reliance on Karim Benzema in 2020-21, the French striker scoring 23 times in the league. No other Madrid squad member reached double figures, Casemiro next on six. Well, Gareth Bale did, though that was during a year on loan at Tottenham.

Ancelotti may struggle to match the offensive numbers of his previous version of Madrid, but he is acutely aware of what is expected from his team.

"The history of this club forces you to play well and have a spectacular game. I believe that football has changed in these years towards a more organisational approach, but the idea of ​​Real Madrid must remain the same," he told the media.

The same Ancelotti, only different

"This is not the same Carlo Ancelotti from six years ago. I have six more years of experience. Positive and negative. I was very happy at Everton and I have grown as a person and as a coach."

Those were the words of the man himself at a news conference on Wednesday which covered a number of topics, including Sergio Ramos' future, the potential arrivals of Kylian Mbappe and Ronaldo, plus the open letter released by the man he has now replaced.

Ancelotti's appointment at Everton was seen as a coup for the Merseyside club and while there were high points during his reign, including a long-awaited win at Anfield (one of 11 away victories in 2020-21), but inconsistent results at home sunk hopes of securing European football, with a resounding 5-0 defeat to Premier League champions Manchester City ultimately bookending the 61-year-old's tenure.

Still, Ancelotti averaged 1.53 points per game, better than any other previous Everton boss to have at least 10 games in charge, including David Moyes (1.50) and Ronald Koeman (1.47), who – if reports are to be believed – will be staying on at Barca, meaning the Toffees will have been coached by both men in charge for next season's Clasico contests.

However, it is Atleti who are the top team in Spain. Diego Simeone's side faltered with the line in sight, but still managed to finish first in a title race that had seemed set to be a procession at one stage during the campaign.

LaLiga is the solitary title in the top five European leagues to so far evade Ancelotti, who knows better than anyone that not even on-pitch success is always enough to keep you in one of the biggest jobs in football.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku headlined the list of Serie A's MVP winners for the 2020-21 season.

Ronaldo finished the campaign as the leading scorer in the competition, netting 29 times across 33 appearances for Juventus to be named the most valuable forward.

Lukaku ranked second in the scorer's list with 24 goals from 36 outings, though the Belgium striker did provide 11 assists compared to Ronaldo's tally of three as he was named "the best overall" MVP.

Both forwards only netted one goal from outside the area and scored six penalties apiece, while Lukaku had a better shot conversion rate than Ronaldo – 25 per cent compared to 17.26 - as he helped Inter finish as champions.

 

Meanwhile, Gianluigi Donnarumma – whose future remains unclear as his contract at Milan nears an end – was selected as the top goalkeeper.

No other keeper played more games than the 22-year-old (37), while his tally of 14 clean sheets was level with Inter's Samir Handanovic for most in the league.

Cristian Romero was named as the best defender after a fine season with Atalanta, while Inter's Italy international Nicolo Barella scooped the midfield MVP honour.

Barella played 36 times for Antonio Conte's champions, scoring three goals and setting a further up seven. On average, he created 1.46 chances per 90 minutes.

There was also recognition for Dusan Vlahovic, named the best player under the age of 23 in Serie A after netting 21 league goals for Fiorentina.

Page 1 of 11
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.