As we enter April, 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 April 2021.
10) Ruben Dias (Manchester City) – New Entry
Rounding off the top 10 for April is Manchester City newbie Ruben Dias. The Portuguese has been mighty impressive since completing a summer transfer from Benfica, and a factor behind City’s improved defense this season.
Defenders don’t normally win the Ballon d’Or. But if one was to win it this year, Dias would surely be a top challenger if not the favorite.
9) Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – Down 2
Kimmich is perhaps one of the more underrated stars in European football, mostly for his lack of goals. But his versatility, intelligence, decisiveness, and sheer consistency are unrivaled, and the German has thrived in a deep midfield role for Bayern Munich this season.
8) Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – New Entry
A long-range screamer against Borussia Monchengladbach confirmed De Bruyne’s return to form. The Belgian ace is back on song at a key moment as Manchester City chase an unprecedented quadruple this season. He has made a number of decisive match-winning contributions and could be a serious Ballon d’Or contender later in the year.
7) Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) – Down 4
Ronaldo had a tough time in March. Juventus suffered another Champions League last-16 exit, at the hands of Porto this time, their Serie A title defense is in tatters, and Cristiano received the brunt of the criticism. Then, to add insult to injury, he got a goal incorrectly ruled out in Serbia.
But the 36-year-old gave a timely reminder of his quality with a stunning hat-trick against Cagliari. He also scored again for Portugal, who now represent his best chance of a sixth Ballon d’Or by winning this summer’s European Championship.
6) Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan) – Up 3
The former Manchester United striker has silenced his critics and is currently Cristiano Ronaldo’s biggest rival in the Italian Golden Boot race. His 13 goal contributions in 2021 so far (9 goals, 4 assists) have helped Inter take the lead in Serie A. If Lukaku keeps this up and helps the Nerazzurri bag a first Scudetto since 2010, he could nail a podium finish.
5) Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City) – Up 3
If there is a dark horse for the Ballon d’Or, Gundogan could be it. The Manchester City midfielder has taken on the scoring mantle in 2021, with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus currently struggling for fitness and form. He has already scored 12 goals to help Pep Guardiola’s men dream of a potential quadruple this season.
4) Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – Up 2
The 20-year-old, like Mbappe, is already one of world’s best strikers. He’s a machine inside the box, having scored a stunning 16 goals in only 17 appearances in 2021 so far, and can still raise his game to a whole other level. If Haaland can fire Borussia Dortmund into the latter stages of the Champions League knockouts, he could make a outside bet for the Ballon d’Or.
3) Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) – Up 1
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. In fact, he could pose a serious threat for the Ballon d’Or this year.
2) Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) – No Change
Messi is back to his best. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has played a key role in Barcelona’s resurrected title challenge in La Liga and Copa del Rey, scoring 19 goals in as many games. But when it counted most, he couldn’t make the difference as the club lost in the Champions League and Spanish Super Cup final.
1) Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – No Change
Lewandowski has continued his mind-blowing stats in 2021, having already scored an unrivaled 20 goals. He has even bagged at least one goal in each of his last 10 games for Bayern Munich and Poland since February.
A ligament injury, however, could prove a game-changer in the Ballon d’Or race. If Lewandowski cannot play in Bayern’s two-legged quarter-final tie with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, it could cost him, especially if the German club lose.