If you told Liverpool fans back in August that Mohamed Salah would be linked with a Ballon d'Or win next year, they'd call you crazy.
Even the most optimistic Kopite in the game wouldn't have imagined their then record signing going onto reach the dizzying heights he has this season. After a virtuoso performance in Liverpool's Champions League semi-final first leg this week, talk of the Ballon d'Or is becoming widespread.
Of course, Salah still needs to maintain his impressive form through the summer and into next season yet his entrance into 2018 has everybody talking.
As Dejan Lovren aptly put the situation on Thursday: “When people talk about Ronaldo and Messi they should also talk about Salah. He deserves it, he deserves to be mentioned for the Ballon d’Or.
"At the start of the season I didn’t know he could do this, but you see how he is working, how he wants the ball, he is just a different player to what he was."
Is Salah on course for the Ballon d'Or?
That's all well and good but how Ballon d'Or-worthy has Salah's form really been?
His statistics for the season are certainly impressive, yet his trajectory for 2018 is far less talked about as we enter the final weeks of the season.
Perhaps one of the best ways to establish whether Salah is on course or not is by comparing his statistics between January 1 and April 26 with the players who won it before him.
How did Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo play during the first four months of their various Ballon d'Or winning years over the last decade?
Well, using the goals and assists statistics of TransferMarkt, the comparisons have been made and they make for interesting viewing. Take a look below:
1. Lionel Messi (2012) - 32
2. Lionel Messi (2015) - 29
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (2013) - 25
4. Lionel Messi (2010) - 25
5. Lionel Messi (2011) - 23
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (2016) - 22
7. Mohamed Salah (2018) - 20
8. Cristiano Ronaldo (2008) - 20
9. Cristiano Ronaldo (2014) - 20
10. Lionel Messi (2009) - 18
11. Cristiano Ronaldo (2017) - 15
1. Lionel Messi (2012) - 16
2. Lionel Messi (2015) - 14
3. Lionel Messi (2011) - 13
4. Cristiano Ronaldo (2014) - 10
5. Mohamed Salah (2018) - 7
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (2008) - 7
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (2016) - 7
8. Cristiano Ronaldo (2017) - 6
9. Cristiano Ronaldo (2013) - 6
10. Lionel Messi (2009) - 5
11. Lionel Messi (2010) - 5
Champions League contention is also regarded as one of the key aspects in winning the Ballon d'Or and Salah is still in the mix.
That is a very important fact when you consider the only winning year from a player who was out of Europe at this point of the season came from Messi in 2012. And that was the year he shattered every goal scoring record and assist-providing record under the sun.
Not only that, but the last four winners went all the way in Europe.
Champions League finish
Cristiano Ronaldo (2008) - Won
Lionel Messi (2009) - Won
Lionel Messi (2010) - Semi-finals
Lionel Messi (2011) - Won
Lionel Messi (2012) - Semi-finals
Cristiano Ronaldo (2013) - Semi-finals
Cristiano Ronaldo (2014) - Won
Lionel Messi (2015) - Won
Cristiano Ronaldo (2016) - Won
Cristiano Ronaldo (2017) - Won
Mohamed Salah (2018) - At least semi-finals
Not bag going, Mo.
In terms of goal scoring, Salah has made a better start to 2018 than Messi made to his winning year in 2009 and Ronaldo made to his triumphant 12 months in 2014 and just last year.
As far as assists are concerned, only Messi's 2012, 2015, 2011 and Ronaldo's 2014 have made a more promising start.
And Salah is nicely positioned when it comes to the Champions League. History suggests semi-final elimination wouldn't be the end of the world yet a place in the final or even victory would see his chances shoot through the roof.
The moral of the story is that Salah is well on course.
Do you think Salah is on course for the Ballon d'Or? Have your say in the comments section below.
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