As we enter July, Ace Football names the 10 current favorites for the prestigious 2021 Ballon d’Or award.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced France Football to cancel the most prestigious individual award last year, football’s biggest stars enter 2021 more determined than ever to lay their hands on the Ballon d’Or.
A combination of votes from football journalists, coaches, and team captains decide the winner of France Football’s annual accolade. And while there is still a long way to go before December, the race is already getting exciting.
So here Ace Football checks out the 10 current favorites to win the 65th edition of the Ballon d’Or as of July 2021.
10) Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund / Norway)
The 20-year-old, like Kylian Mbappe, is already one of the world’s best strikers. He’s a machine inside the box, having scored a stunning 24 goals in only 27 appearances in 2021 so far, and can still raise his game to a whole other level. But Norway’s absence from Euro 2020 has seen him slide down the latest Ballon d’Or rankings.
9) Federico Chiesa (Juventus / Italy)
Chiesa has had a tremendous year so far. The winger starred down the flanks in his debut Juventus campaign to register 14 goals and 10 assists in 43 appearances for the club. He continued his fine form in Euro 2020 to help Italy win a second European title, and a first since 1968.
Chiesa was arguably Italy’s most dangerous forward, especially after scoring from the bench in the last-16 win over Austria. In fact, Gerard Pique named the 23-year-old as his player of the tournament on Twitter.
8) Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain / France)
The 22-year-old truly looked a worthy successor to Ronaldo and Messi by scoring a Champions League hat-trick against Barcelona in February. Not many footballers have achieved this before. But Mbappe’s Ballon d’Or hopes took a hit after he failed to score in any of his four Euro 2020 games as France crashed out in the last-16.
7) Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City / Belgium)
The Belgian ace is back on song at a key moment in the Ballon d’Or race. De Bruyne was instrumental again in helping Manchester City reclaim the Premier League title and win another EFL Cup. Despite his injury troubles, the midfielder still chipped in two assists and a goal for Euro 2020 quarter-finalists Belgium.
6) Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus / Portugal)
Cristiano Ronaldo has had a tough time in 2021 so far. Juventus suffered another early Champions League exit at the hands of Porto, their Serie A title defense ended, and Portugal fell at the last-16 stage of Euro 2020.
But the 36-year-old has still been in awesome form. He ended the season in style by winning the Coppa Italia, a first Capocannoniere prize, Juve’s MVP prize, and Serie A’s best striker award. He also won the Euro 2020 Golden Boot with five goals in only four matches.
5) Jorginho (Chelsea / Italy)
The midfielder played a key role behind Chelsea’s Champions League success and top-four finish in the Premier League last season. He then carried over his fine form in Euro 2020 to help end Italy’s 53-year wait for European glory.
As Maurizio Sarri recently said in an interview, Euro 2020 glory makes Jorginho a Ballon d’Or contender. But can the Blues ace keep up his challenge? Or falter as the year goes on? He’s an outside bet at best right now.
4) Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan / Belgium)
The former Manchester United striker has silenced his critics with Serie A’s MVP award. He was superb all season to help Inter Milan win a first Scudetto since 2010 and finish runner-up to Cristiano Ronaldo in the Capocannoniere battle.
Lukaku continued his solid form in Euro 2020 by scoring four goals for Belgium and made UEFA’s Team of the Tournament.
3) N’Golo Kante (Chelsea / France)
Defensive midfielders rarely get attention in the Ballon d’Or race. But if there is one man who deserves a mention, it’s Kante. The Frenchman was instrumental in Chelsea’s charge to Champions League glory, with man-of-the-match performances in both the semi-finals and the final.
Things tailed off a bit this summer as Euro 2020 favorites France suffered a last-16 exit. But if Kante can keep up his brilliant performances for Chelsea, he could still move up the Ballon d’Or power rankings.
2) Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich / Poland)
Lewandowski has continued his mind-blowing stats in 2021, having scored a record 41 Bundesliga goals in only 29 matches. Had the Pole not been injured between March and April, Bayern Munich perhaps could’ve gone further than the quarter-finals in the Champions League.
Poland predictably exited Euro 2020 in the group stages. But Lewandowski still gave a good account of himself by scoring three goals in three games. It should be interesting to see how he fares under new Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann next season.
1) Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona / Argentina)
Messi finally won that elusive first major international title in the Copa America for Argentina. He managed four goals and five assists to win the competition’s MVP, top scorer, and top assist provider prizes.
The 34-year-old also played a key role in Barcelona’s improved form in the second half of last season. He couldn’t make the difference in the club’s Champions League and Spanish Super Cup final defeats, but helped Ronald Koeman’s side win the Copa del Rey.