After a one-year hiatus, the biggest individual prize in world football is back up for grabs as the 2021 Ballon d’Or gets handed out this November.
The world’s best players will be vying to win one of the most sought-after trophies in the sport, and for once, the competition looks wide open.
First handed out in 1956, only Luka Modrić in 2018 has managed to wrest this prize from the grasp of either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo over the last decade.
Could we have a brand-new winner in 2021?
Here’s our look at the main runners and riders to lift the coveted prize…
Ballon d’Or Predictions | The Favourites
After a strange 18 months or so for the beautiful game as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the return of the Ballon d’Or is perhaps an encouraging sign of things slowly getting back to normal.
However, the lack of a 2020 award means this year’s shortlist is stuffed with even more contenders than usual.
It’s a familiar face who currently leads the field…
Lionel Messi – PSG | A Magnificent Seven?
Despite his change in career circumstances, the Argentine is the early-front runner to take home the trophy for a seventh time.
This calendar year saw him cap off his fine club career with his first international triumph, leading Argentina to the Copa América back in July.
The PSG star played a pivotal role in driving his nation to a first Copa win since 1993, finishing as both top scorer (4) and top assist-provider (5).
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern | Another Career Landmark?
The veteran Bayern striker is entering his 34th year but is showing no signs of slowing down. The lethal Polish marksman has broken records all over the place over the last 18 months, spearheading Bayern’s remarkable trophy haul under former boss Hansi Flick, and would surely have been the frontrunner had the ceremony gone ahead last year.
Lewandowski is arguably a touch unfortunate to be living in a world with Messi and Ronaldo given his extraordinary goalscoring exploits, hitting nearly a half-century of goals last season and breaking Gerd Muller’s 50-goal Bundesliga record.
Jorginho – Chelsea | Rewarding Mr Consistency?
He already has one major individual honour to his name as the surprise winner of the UEFA Player of the Year award back in August.
Can Chelsea’s reliable midfield man add another award to his expanding trophy cabinet by landing this most coveted of prizes?
The 29-year-old stands an excellent chance given his body of work over the last year, winning the Champions League and Super Cup with the Blues, as well as the European Championship with Italy.
If the Ballon jury opt to reward a player who has put in the hard yards over the last season, the Italian looks the standout candidate.
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea | Sneaking Under The Radar?
Alternatively, could it be one of Jorginho’s teammates who sneaks the top prize?
The unassuming Blues midfield lynchpin probably hasn’t featured as strongly in the Ballon d’Or conversation as he should have done in recent seasons due to his low-key nature. However, after securing the Champions League earlier his summer, he could be a long-shot to be recognised for his career ‘in the round’ having now won nearly every major prize the game has to offer.
📝 Did You Know? 📝
Until 1995, only players registered in European leagues were eligible to win to Ballon d’Or – the reason why greats like Diego Maradona and Pele are missing from the prestigious line-up of stars to have landed this prize.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United | Old Habits Die Hard?
In truth, after a mixed final campaign collectively (if not individually) with Juventus, and question marks over the merits of his return to Man Utd, there are probably more convincing candidates than Ronaldo land the 2021 prize, but it’s never wise to entirely write off the Portuguese great.
CR7 does have two strong cards to play in his bid to draw level with Messi as a six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
He ticked off yet another extraordinary career landmark in October, becoming the top men’s international goalscorer of all time with his beloved Portugal, while the one trophy he did win at Juventus in his final year, the Coppa Italia, secured his status as the only player in history to win every major trophy in England, Italy and Spain.
Gianluigi Donnarumma – PSG | Safe Hands Surprise?
Could a goalkeeper scoop this prize for a second time?
It seems unlikely, with Lev Yashin way back in 1962 the last man between the sticks to walk away with this award.
However, Italian Donnarumma could change all that if this year’s voting proves to be wide open.
If there was any doubt the 22-year-old was one of the best goalkeepers in the world prior to this season, his commanding performances at the European Championships ended any lingering uncertainty as he was named Player of the Tournament.
However, a frustrating start to his time at PSG – where he has yet to successfully oust teammate Keylor Navas – could hamper his chances of securing additional silverware this November.
Mo Salah – Liverpool | A Late Power Play?
Could Salah’s blistering start to the campaign see the Egyptian swing some late votes in his direction?
The Egyptian ace is widely being talked up as the best player in the world right now after a free-scoring first few months of the 2021/22 Premier League season, netting more than a goal per game since mid-August.
A lack of trophies from within the immediate voting period could count against the 29-year-old, but jurors may be mindful of the fact Reds’ players were robbed off an opportunity for full recognition when the ceremony was cancelled in the wake of their title-winning season in 2019/20.
🏆 Ballon D’Or FAQ 🏆
When is the 2021 Ballon D’Or?
This year’s ceremony takes place on 29th November 2021 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris – where Lionel Messi received his sixth Ballon d’Or back in 2019.
Ballon D’Or: Most Wins
1. Lionel Messi: 6 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019)
2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 5 (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
3. Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini & Marco van Basten: all 3
(1971, 1973, 1974) / (1983, 1984, 1985) / (1988, 1989, 1992)
Which club has had the most Ballon D’Or winners?
Barcelona – 12Real Madrid – 11A.C Milan- 8Juventus – 8Bayern Munich – 5