After not being awarded in 2020, the Ballon d’Or – football’s most prestigious individual award – is up for grabs again this year.
Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is the bookmakers’ big favorite to win a record-breaking seventh trophy.
Messi was of course part of a shortlist of 30 players nominated on Friday, with that number set to be reduced to just three players next month.
Here, Stats Perform examines five nominees for the award… starting with the obvious.
Barcelona may be in turmoil, but Lionel Messi was still at his best before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain amid financial disputes for the La Liga heavyweights – although on the trophy front he didn’t. won than the Copa del Rey last season. In 2021, Messi has 29 goals, nine assists and 76 chances created nationally for Barca and PSG. But it was Messi’s triumph with Argentina at the Copa America that made him the favorite for a seventh Ballon d’Or, this achievement finally marking his first international title. Messi scored four goals and five assists as Lionel Scaloni’s men celebrated their success in Brazil.
It has been a year to remember for Jorginho, who was one of the biggest beneficiaries after Thomas Tuchel was appointed Chelsea boss in January. The deep playmaker was influential as the Blues were crowned Champions League winners for the second time, taking the trophy with a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Fast forward two months and Jorginho was celebrating Euro 2020 success with Italy, playing every game for the Azzurri, who beat England in the final via a penalty shootout at Wembley. His accomplishments have already been recognized after being named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.
Like his teammate Jorginho, N’Golo Kante performed superb under Tuchel’s tutelage. Kante was one of the top performers as Chelsea beat Real Madrid in the semi-finals and were named man of the match following a game against City in the final. France’s shock exit in the round of 16 against Switzerland at Euro 2020 will likely count against Kante, but he remains one of the best midfielders in the game.
Truly, the only thing that stopped Robert Lewandowski from winning a Ballon d’Or in 2020 was France Football’s decision not to hand over the award amid the coronavirus pandemic. While there has been no repeat of the triple heroism of this troubled 2019-2020 campaign, Lewandowski is still in stunning form for Bayern Munich and last season broke Gerd’s 49-year-old record Muller for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, scoring 41 as Die Roten were crowned champions for a ninth consecutive campaign. So far in 2021 in Europe’s top five leagues, Lewandowski is leading the way in goals scored (41) and big chances (as defined by Opta) scored (34).
Just like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, five-time Ballon d’Or winner, did not necessarily have his best year in terms of national trophies won. Juventus found themselves in a disappointing fourth position in Serie A, after being knocked out of the Champions League the last 16 by Porto. But he finished top scorer in the league with 29 goals and helped the Bianconeri win Coppa Italia before leaving to join Manchester United in a late move in the transfer window. Internationally, Ronaldo – at the age of 36 – finished top scorer at Euro 2020, where Portugal’s defense of the European Championship ended in the round of 16. In September he became the top scorer in men’s international football, as a brace against the Republic of Ireland took him to 111.
The 2021 Ballon d’Or shortlist in its entirety: Cesar Azpilicueta, Nicolo Barella, Karim Benzema, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Bruno Fernandes, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Jorginho, Harry Kane, N’Golo Kante, Simon Kjaer, Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku, Riyad Mahrez, Lautaro Martinez, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, Gerard Moreno, Mason Mount, Neymar, Pedri, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez.
The winner of the prestigious award will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on November 29.
The contenders for the Kopa Trophy – awarded to the world’s best under-21 male footballer – were also released on Friday by France Football.
Barcelona teenage sensation Pedri, Bayern Munich talent Jamal Musiala and England trio Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Mason Greenwood were all nominated.
Jeremy Doku, Ryan Gravenberch, Nuno Mendes, Gio Reyna and Florian Wirtz complete the list of 10 candidates.
Meanwhile, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Ederson, Edouard Mendy, Thibaut Courtois, Kasper Schmeichel, Manuel Neuer, Emiliano Martinez, Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas and Samir Handanovic are in the running for the Yachine Trophy, which rewards the best goalkeeper of the year.