With no Ballon d’Or to determine the world’s best footballer for the first time in 65 years, we are stepping up to fill the void by unveiling our men’s and women’s Star of the Year in our inaugural football awards countdown.
We polled our journalists across our network of European offices to find their top five players for 2020 in both the men's and women's game, and on Friday afternoon we began to reveal our results.
Numbers 5-1 will be revealed on Monday at 7pm as our Stars of the Year are crowned, and look out for some exclusive content as we profile the two winners.
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6th - Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has earned himself a place amongst the world's best players after captaining Real Madrid to the La Liga title and the Super Cup. It was his 16th season in the Spanish capital.
No defender in the history of La Liga has scored more goals than Ramos, and he notched 11 more last term, with another two in all competitions.
At the back, he is near unbeatable in the air, across quickly to snuff out danger and intelligent when under pressure. He has simply become the key cog in Zinedine Zidane's side, and only Iker Casillas and Raul have made more appearances for the club.
He is just as vital and eye-catching when representing Spain. No player has represented his country more than he has, and he is rapidly closing in on 200 caps. No defender has made more appearances in both FIFA and UEFA's teams of the year and could go down as one of the best defenders ever. Profile by Félix Martín
7th - Cristiano Ronaldo
A name, a talent. The numbers produced by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2019-20 are simply breathtaking and an exclamation point in the illustrious career of a footballing alien.
Firstly, he is the oldest player to score 30 Serie A goals in a season since 1948. His goal tally with Portugal now exceeds 100 and he is closing in on Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals.
His passport may say he's 35 but his physique belies that age. Whether he starts on the left or plays as a centre-forward, he is equally decisive for Juventus' fortunes and, with just over 50 more goals, he'll become the most prolific scorer of all time. Profile by Stefano Fonsato
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8th - Lionel Messi
The fact that Messi's name is part of the debate about who is the greatest player ever speaks for itself about the career of the Argentine superstar. Although Barcelona have suffered through a shockingly bad season, Messi's name continues to endure.
Capable of the seemingly impossible, Messi can execute miraculous play with his eyes closed, something that mere mortals can only imagine doing. In his 17th professional season as a Barcelona player, Messi scored 31 goals and provided 27 assists, numbers that only someone of his standing could possibly put up.
Leo is a record-breaker by nature. Messi is not only the top scorer in Barcelona’s history, but also the greatest scorer in La Liga and the second in the Champions League, as well as the top assist provider in the Spanish domestic competition. He was part of one of the best Barça teams in history and has accumulated 34 collective titles, of which 10 La Liga and four Champions League crowns stand out.
In addition, as captain of Argentina, Messi is on his way to becoming the player with the most international appearances. All these facts have earned him a multitude of individual titles, including six Ballon d’Or awards and six golden boots. Profile by Félix Martín
9th - Kylian Mbappe
Despite an interrupted season in France, the world champion still had time to make an impression. The top scorer in the French league for the second year in a row, tied with Wissam Ben Yedder, the Parisian was once again one of the headliners of the Parisian quadruplet.
Although his form in the Champions League has been somewhat patchy, he has still found ways to show his class. The Parisian was one of the key performers for PSG against Atalanta and Leipzig. If his play in the last Champions League final was somewhat disappointing, marked by his failure to beat Manuel Neuer, the Frenchman achieved strong enough showings which allowed him to be named in the team of the competition by UEFA.
Making a statement this season, Frenchman has got going with 10 goals and 7 assists in 13 matches. On December 5, he scored his 100th goal for Paris Saint-Germain. If 2021 sees him continue to shine and express his talent, the French striker could take the Parc des Princes side to even greater successes. Profile by Fabien Esvan
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Joint 10th - Erling Haaland
When he moved from Salzburg to the "real" Bundesliga in Dortmund aged 19, the expectation was: 'Well, let's see what the kid really can do.' After one year the answer can only be: 'A lot. And probably even more.' His 33 goals in 32 appearances in the 2020 calendar year for his new club are even more impressive when you consider that he only needed 73 minutes of action per goal – a rate even Lewandowski, Ronaldo, Messi, Lukaku or Immobile can't match. At BVB, the 'Golden Boy' immediately looked like the last piece of the puzzle. His coolness in front of goal is reminiscent of Messi. His technique, which is extremely good despite his 1.94m height, reminds you of Ibrahimovic and his physique - see his thighs! - almost rivals that of Cristiano Ronaldo. But BVB fans do not only celebrate his goals, but also every courageous sprint that the Norwegian makes across the whole pitch to help his defence. One thing is clear: if Haaland stays healthy and humble, he's going to be world class. If he isn't already. Profile by Florian Bogner
Joint 10th - Sadio Mane
If it was Eurosport Star of the Season, and not a judgement on a calendar year, then Sadio Mane may have pinched the top prize. Fresh from helping Liverpool win the Champions League in 2019, Mane started last season in explosive form as the Reds ripped apart the division. But here he is a victim of Liverpool’s excellence. With the Premier League title wrapped up before lockdown, he didn’t need to be incredible when football returned. Despite that, he was still named the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year after firing 18 goals and seven assists. Those numbers only tell half the story. His all-round game, electric pace and selfless work rate has seen him combine the qualities of his fellow attackers at Anfield, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino. OK, so he’s started the new season a little flat – partly due to testing positive for Covid-19 in October - but he’s still more than deserving of his place in the top 10. Profile by Ben Snowball
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