The Ballon d’Or is finally back on offer this year and a lot of trophy-winning players are in contention to claim the men’s individual award.
Recall that there was some controversy when organisers decided against awarding the Ballon d’Or in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, curtailed campaigns and matches played behind closer doors.
The decision saw heavy favourite Robert Lewandowski miss out on the men’s Ballon d’Or.
Meanwhile, this year, the Bayern Munich striker has also some stiff competition to show
The men’s and women’s Ballon d’Or winners will be crowned at a gala event at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on 29 November.
The event will also hand out the Kopa Trophy, given to the best men’s player under 21, and the Yashin Trophy, handed to the best goalkeeper.
Here are the top five contenders after the 30-man shortlist was revealed on 8 October.
Barcelona were fully appreciative of Lionel Messi’s quality when he was at the club, but their dependency on the forward has perhaps been truly realised since he left for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
Messi’s haul of 38 goals and 14 assists in 52 games helped Barça finish third in La Liga and win the Copa del Rey, but the reason why a seventh Ballon d’Or looks likely this year is down to his international achievement – at long last.
Argentina won the Copa America when beating Brazil 1-0 in July’s final, marking the first major international trophy for Messi after he was a runner-up three times in the South American competition as well as the 2014 World Cup.
At the Copa America he had the joint-most goals (4) and chances created (21), as well as the most goal contributions (9), assists (5), shots (28), and shots on target (11) – a typically influential showing which this time resulted in silverware.
It is the reason Messi is the odds-on favourite to win the Ballon d’Or, while for good measure his stunner against Manchester City was a timely reminder why he looks set to go two clear of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Justice for Lewy? The term “robbed” was banded around this time last year when the Ballon d’Or was cancelled, almost certainly denying Robert Lewandowski the men’s award, given the Polish striker was instrumental during Bayern Munich’s treble-winning 2019-20 campaign, scoring a staggering 55 goals in 47 games.
With 180 journalists voting on the Ballon d’Or, there may well be a strong contingent who believe Lewandowski’s 2020 should be recognised with the 2021 award, while he still boasts the numbers to back his bid this year.
The Champions League and Euro 2020 winner is a candidate for those very two reasons. Boasting the best European trophies on offer at both club and international level, Jorginho was a major benefactor from Thomas Tuchel’s arrival at Chelsea.
The midfielder played every minute of the Champions League knockout games but for the match he was suspended (last-16 second leg vs Atletico Madrid) and he then played all-but 15 minutes of Italy’s Euro 2020-winning campaign.
Players around him took the headlines during both triumphs, but his efforts were recognised with the Uefa Men’s Player of the Year award after he also lifted the Super Cup with Chelsea.
The popular Chelsea midfielder was a primary reason why they won the Champions League last season, remarkably claiming Uefa’s Player of the Match award in both semi-final legs against Real Madrid as well as the final against Manchester City.
Like Jorginho, the odds are against him given the rarity in which defensive midfielders win the Ballon d’Or, although former Chelsea captain John Terry and international teammate Paul Pogba are among the names to have backed N’Golo Kante.
“Kante’s like 11 players on his own,” Terry told Stadium Astro. “What he does, he goes so under the radar. He is such a top-class player.
“I’d love to go see him win the Ballon d’Or or get the appreciation that I feel he deserves.”
Despite ending the season as the Serie A top scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally of 29 league goals were only enough to help Juventus finish a surprise fourth, while there was a disappointing last-16 exit to Porto in the Champions League.
Juve were at least able to win the Coppa Italia, in a campaign which somewhat mirrored Barça and Messi’s over in Spain, but Ronaldo makes the top five due to his efforts since.
At Euro 2020 he ended the tournament as the Golden Boot winner with five goals (tied with Patrik Schick) and one assist, despite Portugal playing just four games having lost to Belgium in the last 16, while Ronaldo then broke the men’s international scoring record with goals No 110 and 111 against the Republic of Ireland in September.
Full list of 2021 Ballon d’Or 30-man shortlist
- Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
- Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan)
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
- Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
- Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
- Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
- Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
- Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
- Phil Foden (Manchester City)
- Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
- Jorginho (Chelsea)
- Harry Kane (Tottenham)
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
- Simon Kjaer (AC Milan)
- Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
- Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)
- Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
- Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)
- Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
- Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)
- Mason Mount (Chelsea)
- Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Pedri (Barcelona)
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
- Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
- Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)