The Ballon d’Or never fails to create discussion and excitement as fans and pundits debate the rightful winner of the annual prize.
Given to the player deemed the best in the world, former winners have included legends such as Alfredo di Stefano, Eusebio, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller and Zinedine Zidane. In more recent years, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated the proceedings, although Luka Modric broke up the duopoly in 2018 before Messi claimed the most recent award.
After COVID-19 cancelled the awarding of a 2020 Ballon d’Or, the list of nominees for 2021 includes the three most recent winners plus 27 other players. One name of the 30 will be chosen at the award ceremony on Monday, November 29 in Paris.
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.
Players around him took the headlines during both triumphs, but his efforts were recognised with the Uefa Men’s Player of the Year award after he also lifted the Super Cup with Chelsea.
Barcelona were fully appreciative of Lionel Messi’s quality when he was at the club, but their dependency on the forward has perhaps been truly realised since he left for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
Messi’s haul of 38 goals and 14 assists in 52 games helped Barca 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.
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.
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.
The scenes of Messi crying tears of joy when celebrating their triumph in front of supporters in September (the competition itself was played behind closed doors) will live long in the memory for Argentines, especially after their near-misses in years gone by.
Justice for Lewy? The term “robbed” was banded around this time last year when the Ballon d’Or was cancelled, almost certainly denying Robert Lewandowski the men’s award, given the Polish striker was instrumental during Bayern Munich’s treble-winning 2019-20 campaign, scoring a staggering 55 goals in 47 games.
With 180 journalists voting on the Ballon d’Or, there may well be a strong contingent who believe Lewandowski’s 2020 should be recognised with the 2021 award, while he still boasts the numbers to back his bid this year.
He kept up his prolific rate with 48 goals in 40 games last season, winning the European Golden Shoe as Bayern won the Bundesliga again, while he has also started 2021-22 in a similar vein, scoring seven times in the first five league matches and netting twice at the Nou Camp when Bayern breezed past Barcelona 3-0.
Lewandowski’s odds shortened after a “leaked” list claimed he topped the list ahead of Messi, although there was no verifying the piece of paper which went viral on Twitter.