As we enter October, 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 October 2021.
10) Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City / Belgium)
The Belgium international had another standout campaign in 2020/21. His 28 goal contributions (10 goals / 18 assists) helped bag a second consecutive PFA award, third Premier League title, and a fifth EFL Cup.
De Bruyne’s summer, however, ended in disappointment. First, Manchester City lost the Champions League final to Chelsea. He then suffered a quarter-final exit in Euro 2020 with Belgium to eventual winners Italy. Right now, a top 10 finish is the best he can hope for in the Ballon d’Or rankings.
9) Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund / Norway)
Is it us or does Haaland keep getting better at every game? The 21-year-old is already one of the world’s best strikers. He’s a machine inside the box, having scored 41 goals in as many games last season for Borussia Dortmund.
Norway’s absence from Euro 2020 obviously hurt his Ballon d’Or prospects for this year. But if Haaland continues the way he is, France Football will surely crown him soon.
8) Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United / Portugal)
New season, new club, new league, same old Ronaldo.
At the age of 36, CR7 made a daring return to Europe’s toughest league in the Premier League and aced it. The Portuguese ace has already scored five times in six games for Manchester United. He also won Golden Boot awards for Juventus in Serie A and Portugal at Euro 2020 last season.
7) 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 is no ordinary player, with a blistering pace and clinical touch that makes him a nightmare for defenders.
But while the new partnership with Lionel Messi needs more time to gel, Mbappe moves up the rankings after helping France the Nations League.
6) Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea / Belgium)
Leading Inter Milan to a first Serie A title since 2010 has done Lukaku’s career wonders. The Belgian supplied the goals for himself and his teammates, leading to a deserved MVP award. Therefore, Chelsea broke the bank to re-sign him for a club-record fee of €115 million.
Life back at Stamford Bridge has been sweet, so far. Lukaku is living the dream after an impressive start. The goals may have dried up a bit recently, but don’t expect that to last long.
5) 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 have tailed off a bit since then. A last-16 exit in Euro 2020 with France clearly hurt Kante’s Ballon d’Or hopes, although he continues to impress for Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel.
4) Karim Benzema (Real Madrid / France)
Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, Benzema has moved out of the Portuguese’s shadow to become Real Madrid’s main man.
The club’s glory days in Europe may be over, but that’s nothing on Benzema. The 33-year-old has been the one consistent ray of light in Madrid, supplying many goals and assists. His performances won a deserved recall on the French national team. He was critical in helping France win the Nations League and his first major international title. The question is can he win the Ballon d’Or on these merits?
3) 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 ends? The fact he won UEFA’s Player of the Year suggests he can win it.
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 left Euro 2020 in the group stages. But Lewandowski still gave a good account of himself by scoring three goals in three games. He has since continued to hammer in the goals under new Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann.
Given that he could have got a first Ballon d’Or in 2020 had it not been canceled, perhaps Lewandowski would be a deserving winner of this year’s prize.
1) Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain / Argentina)
Messi inspired Barcelona to Copa del Rey glory and won that elusive title with Argentina in the Copa America last season.
The 34-year-old forward has supplied 37 goals and 14 assists in 46 appearances this calendar year.
Despite a slow start to life at Paris Saint-Germain, bookmakers and fans alike are tipping Messi to win a seventh Ballon d’Or.