The conversations and debates surrounding this year’s Ballon d’Or award are beginning to gather steam with a few months left.
Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi, is the odds-on favourite to win the prize.
If the 34-year-old takes it home, he will be winning it for a record-extending seventh time.
His eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is also expected to make the cut as per usual, alongside Chelsea’s midfield duo of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Ronaldo in 8th position as top 9 possible winners revealed [See list]
But who are really the top contenders for this year’s award?
1. Lionel Messi: After scoring 33 goals and providing 13 assists in all competitions for Barcelona last season, Messi is widely expected to win the prize. The Argentina captain further helped his case by winning the Copa America with his country, after a 1-0 win over Brazil in the final.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo: The Juventus forward made history last season, becoming the first player to finish as top scorer in the Premier League, LaLiga and now Serie A. However, he failed to propel Portugal to the European Championship title this summer, as they were eliminated by Belgium.
3. Kylian Mbappe: Widely expected to break the duopoly between Messi and Ronaldo, Mbappe is very likely to make it to the Ballon d’Or podium this year. The 22-year-old scored 42 times in 47 games in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain last season, as Mauricio Pochettino’s men surrendered the Ligue 1 title to Lille. PSG were also knocked out by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.
4. N’Golo Kante: The World Cup winner added the Champions League title to his many achievements this year. Kante put in a series of Man-of-the-Match displays as Chelsea saw off Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Manchester City in the final to win the trophy. But his chances could be dampened by France’s poor display at the just concluded Euro 2020, where they were knocked out by Switzerland in the round of 16.
5. Jorginho: The Italy midfielder finished the 2020/2021 season as Chelsea’s top scorer in the Premier League with seven goals, albeit they all came from the penalty spot. He carried that form into Euro 2020, playing every game as his country ultimately won the trophy.
6. Robert Lewandowski: The Bayern Munich striker won last season’s European Golden Shoe, ahead of Messi and Ronaldo. He netted a record-breaking 41 goals in Bundesliga in 2020/2021, breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 goals set in the 1971/1972 season. Lewandowski was heavily tipped to win last year.
7. Kevin de Bruyne: Manchester City’s playmaker, De Bruyne, has an outside chance of winning the individual accolade. The Belgian was instrumental as Pep Guardiola’s team won the Premier League and Carabao Cup. De Bruyne however failed to shine at the Euros, scoring once as they exited in the quarter-finals.
The Ballon d’Or was not handed out in 2020, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.