The Ballon d’Or is back on offer this year and a host of trophy-winning players are in contention to claim the men’s individual award.
If you’re unfamiliar with global soccer, the Ballon d’Or award is given to the best soccer player in the world every year. “Ballon d’Or”, translates to “Golden Ball”. It is an annual award that is presented by France Football Magazine to the male soccer player who is regarded to be the very best in the world.
There was some controversy when organisers opted 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, and this year the Bayern Munich striker has some stiff competition.
Last week the 30 nominees were unveiled and here are the top five contenders for the ballon d’Or 2021:
1. Lionel Messi (PSG)
He is the favorite once again in 2021 after winning the first major international trophy of his professional career with Argentina, leading the national team to a Copa America title
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.
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.
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.
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
The Polish striker, Robert Lewandowski is also a top contender after arguably being robbed of the award in 2020. Lewandowski led German giants, Bayern Munich to a dominating run in 2019-20, winning the Champions League, Bundesliga trophy, and DFB-Pokal. He continued to show his amazing quality in front of the net in 2020-21 scoring a bundesliga record 41 goals in 29 league matches and a scoring a staggering 55 goals in 47 games.
He truly was robbed in 2020 of winning the Ballon D’Or and is deserving of all considerations in 2021.
3. Jorginho (Chelsea)
Jorginho is third in the latest odds to win the award. The Italian star midfielder was named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year in August.
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.
Although he’s not known as a goal scorer more as a facilitator and feisty defender, he still led his club in goals last season. Jorginho determined how his team played whether it was for Chelsea or his country, Italy.
His passes and leadership in the middle were on full display every time he was on the field, something that stats cannot measure.
4. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Another Chelsea midfielder, N’Golo Kante finds himself among the top five rankings for the Ballon d’Or in 2021.
A defensive midfielder has never won the award but Kante makes a strong case to be the first. Before this summer Kante was the favorite to win the award. The Frenchman receives only high praise from every teammate he has.
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.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Cristiano Ronaldo is trying to add to his prestigious collection as he seeks his sixth Ballon d’Or trophy.
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.
He finished third in 2019 for the Ballon d’Or. He returned to Manchester United after twelve years and has impressed immediately upon his arrival.