Kevin de Bruyne needs to win “lots of titles, especially the Champions League” to win the Ballon d’Or, says his Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
However, when asked if the midfielder was playing at a level that made him a contender to be named the world’s best, Guardiola said: “I have no doubt.”
“To be a contender, you have to win [the Champions League], and be there in the latter stages,” added Guardiola.
“But how he played against Leicester it is hard to find better in Europe.”
De Bruyne made three assists in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Leicester to take his total in the league this season to 14, four more than the next best player.
Guardiola continued: “It is not just one game, it is all season and every three days that he is playing that way.”
De Bruyne, 26, said: “I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after is an extra.
“I am very pleased with the way everything is going for me. The way the team is playing makes it easier for me and for them. At the end, if you get an individual honour it is beautiful.”
Speaking on Match of the Day on Saturday, BBC pundit Danny Murphy said De Bruyne was “probably the best passer of the ball I have seen in the Premier League”.
De Bruyne was 14th in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2017, when Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo won the award for a fifth time.
Ronaldo and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, also a five-time winner, have been the only players to take the honour since Kaka won it in 2007.
In eight of the past 11 seasons, the winner has been part of the Champions League-winning side.
City, who are chasing an unprecedented quadruple (they play in the League Cup final against Arsenal on 25 February and visit Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup on 19 February), resume their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with the first leg of their last-16 tie against FC Basel in Switzerland.
They were knocked out by Monaco at this stage last season in Guardiola’s first season in charge, after reaching the semi-finals under Manuel Pellegrini in 2016.