Even those who witnessed Mohamed Salah's impressive rise in Serie A would have struggled to anticipate what a stunning impact he'd have upon his return to the Premier League. Ousted from the competition by - yes, you guessed it! - José Mourinho during his second reign at Chelsea, the forward returned to the competition with a point to prove. And, boy did he deliver.
The Ballon d'Or - or as it should have perhaps been renamed, 'The Ronaldo-Messi Yearly Back Slapping Award' - will be taken home by one of eight footballing superstars on Monday evening, and Liverpool sensation Salah is quite rightfully among the runners and riders.
While it appears it will probably be Real Madrid star Luka Modrić who ends the aforementioned duo's decade-long stranglehold on the competition.
08' - Ronaldo— 90min (@90min_Football) December 3, 2018
09' - Messi
10' - Messi
11' - Messi
12' - Messi
13' - Ronaldo
14' - Ronaldo
15' - Messi
16' - Ronaldo
17' - Ronaldo
18' - The year that the Ballon d'Or run ends? pic.twitter.com/KFHVQzyrdT
Putting his initial false start to Chelsea to one side, you'd have to go back as far Sergio Agüero's Manchester City debut season in 2011 to find a more impressive debut than Salah's at Liverpool. The 26-year-old became a fan's favourite in the blink of an eye, as well as the jewel in the crown of pretty much every Fantasy Football team going.
The stats certainly back this up: In a record breaking opening season the Egyptian ace netted 44 goals in a red shirt - more than any player in the club's history on their debut season at Anfield. This saw him bag the Premier League Golden Boot with 32 goals. Looking just at 2018 - which the Balon d'Or panel will - Salah has been involved in 41 goals in 43 matches so far.
The 5ft. 9in. assassin allowed Jürgen Klopp to play the dynamic football the fans had been craving, and his inclusion in a frontline alongside Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino saw the Reds become one of the most feared attacking sides in European football.
Of course, the arguments for the other nominees are compelling. After another stunning season with Real Madrid and a stirring World Cup campaign with Croatia, Luka Modrić deserves to be in with a shout. However, Salah's blockbuster 2018 has arguably made more of a global impact with football - attracting attention from the world's media beyond outlets focused on football.
While Salah's potent power may have waned slightly in the opening stages of the 2018/19 season, it really shouldn't detract too greatly from what has been a stunning 2018 for the former Basel man. Arguably, had Salah not been cruelly injured in the Champions League final, and his side had won it (well done, Karius!), he would be red hot favourite to scoop the Ballon d'Or.
Source : 90min