The release of the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or is one of the most intriguing days of the year. There is even more anticipation this year as the award was not given out in 2020 with the decision made to cancel it due to the football calendar being disrupted by COVID-19. Set to be given out in Paris at the end of November, there is no clear front-runner for once. Here are five of the top names in the frame for the Ballon d’Or in 2021.
5 contenders to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or
A crucial cog in midfield for both Italy and Chelsea, Jorginho has enjoyed a stellar year. Success for Jorginho and Chelsea in the Champions League final against Manchester City was followed just a few weeks later by Italy beating England to claim the Euro 2020 trophy.
But the Ballon d’Or is an individual award and it does not usually just go to the player who has collected the most team medals, hence the dominance of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Jorginho’s unflashy nature means his most important work often goes unnoticed and, despite plenty of people campaigning for him to win, he might well find himself being overlooked.
Roberto Mancini has thrown his weight behind Jorginho, saying it would be “strange” if the diminutive midfielder did not collect the 2021 Ballon d’Or. “Jorginho should, in my opinion, win the Ballon d’Or,” the Italy coach said recently. “He has won everything and deserves it a lot.”
Most people felt Lewandowski should have won the Ballon d’Or in 2020, but it was not to be It is debatable whether or not it was the right decision to cancel the award last year but Lewandowski has maintained his unstoppable form in front of goal to remain in the mix.
The Poland hitman earned the 2020-21 European Golden Shoe by smashing in 41 Bundesliga goals as Bayern Munich won the title in Germany yet again.
Lewandowski also broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record for the most goals in a single Bundesliga season and many believe that remarkable feat should be recognised. Despite being the most complete number nine in world football for a long time, Lewandowski has never even finished in the top three for the Ballon d’Or. That will surely change this year.
With six wins under his belt already, Messi is a narrow favourite in the 2021 Ballon d’Or betting. After a string of near misses, 2021 finally saw Messi win a major international tournament. Argentina’s triumph at the Copa America might be enough to persuade voters to once again go for Messi, who missed out on the top three in 2018 but was the last winner two years ago.
Messi scored the joint most goals and also recorded the most assists at the Copa America, stamping his unique gifts all over the summer tournament in South America. Few could argue that he does not have a strong case to win the Ballon d’Or a seventh time.
There would be no more popular winner than Kante. Widely regarded as the best midfielder of his type for a generation, Kante was brilliant as Chelsea claimed the Champions League crown. France’s relative underperformance at Euro 2020 might count against Kante but he was not to blame for Les Bleus failing to back up their success at the last World Cup.
Kante then missed out from being able to help France to bounce back with victory in the second edition of the Nations League during the international break after a positive Covid test. Similar to Jorginho, Kante does not have the star power as some of the other contenders. But it is arguably about time his remarkable contributions were rewarded with an individual gong.
Third in the 2019 voting and second the previous year, Ronaldo has not won the Ballon d’Or since his move from Real Madrid to Juventus. Now back at Manchester United, Ronaldo’s case for a sixth crown includes the fact he was the top goalscorer at Euro 2020 despite Portugal going out to Belgium in the round of 16.
Ronaldo has also since surpassed Ali Daei’s record for Iran to be the most prolific goalscorer in the history of international football.
Having also ended his last season at Juve as the top scorer in Serie A in 2020-21 – he managed 29 goals though they did not win the title – Ronaldo has a decent case to win the Ballon d’Or. He has finished in the top three of the voting every year since 2010 and, at 36, Ronaldo is running out of opportunities to get back on level terms with his old rival Messi. Could the 2021 Ballon d’Or be his last chance?
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