The awarding of the prize was cancelled in 2020 and the world’s best players are again making their cases to claim the coveted individual honour
After being cancelled in 2020, the Ballon d’Or is back, with the great and good of the football world again eyeing the biggest individual honour the game has to offer.
Although the prize will not be handed out until December, performances over the coming weeks will go a long way to deciding who will and won’t be in contention to succeed 2019 winner Lionel Messi.
With the European season now behind us and both Euro 2020 and the Copa America well under way , the world’s best players are beginning to come to the fore.
So, by using their performances so far, as well as predictions of what is likely still to come in 2021, who holds the most power in this year’s race?
Goal ranks the runners and riders…
#20 Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
Last time: 16th
In 2021: 13 goals, two assists. Won La Liga.
Suarez may have been beaten to the La Liga Player of the Year award by his team-mate Jan Oblak, but there is no doubt that the ex-Barcelona man was the face of Atletico Madrid’s title win.
Success at the Copa America would push him towards a potential top-10 finish in the Ballon d’Or race, though Uruguay do not look to be the same force as they have been over the past decade.
#19 Memphis Depay (Barcelona)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: 20 goals, 11 assists.
It may have gone unnoticed outside France, but Depay enjoyed a superb season for Lyon, registering double figures for goals and assists before earning his dream move to Barcelona this summer.
Though he is yet to light up Euro 2020, he is the attacking leader of a Netherlands team that have won their group with a game to spare and know they will not meet another group winner until the semi-finals at the earliest.
With that in mind, if the Oranje go deep in the tournament, Depay is going to get plenty of chances to impress the watching Ballon d’Or judges.
#18 Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Last time: 15th
In 2021: 19 goals, five assists.
Kane’s sluggish start to Euro 2020 is concerning for both England fans and the man himself as he looks to earn more individual honours after his Golden Boot-winning campaign in the Premier League.
If he cannot lift his performance levels in the matches to come this summer, then his hopes of being in the final Ballon d’Or reckoning will be all but over.
#17 Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Last time: 14th
In 2021: 16 goals, 10 assists.
Unlike at Manchester United, Fernandes has to fight for supremacy when it comes to dictating the play for Portugal, and as such it probably should not be surprising that he has not yet had it all his own way at Euro 2020.
That is not to say that he will not produce some sort of defining moment in the weeks to come if the Seleccao advance through the competition.
#16 Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Last time: 13th
In 2021: Nine goals, three assists. Won Champions League.
Mount is another England player who has not quite hit the same heights as he did during the domestic season at Euro 2020, but it would be surprising if Gareth Southgate took him out of the firing line.
That said, any slim chance that Mount had of winning the Ballon d’Or after helping lead Chelsea to Champions League glory is now fading.
#15 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Last week: 12th
In 2021: 16 goals, six assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Gundogan looks set to have a key role alongside Toni Kroos at the heart of the Germany midfield in Euro 2020, though it may mean that his attacking instincts do again need to be tempered.
As such, do not expect his goalscoring form from the start of 2021 to reappear at any point over the summer.
#14 Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: Six goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey.
The second member of the Netherlands side to enter the rankings this week, with De Jong’s performance against Austria having particularly caught the eye.
Add the potential for a deep run at Euro 2020 to his fine second half of the season at Barcelona – the highlight of which came in his match-winning display in the Copa del Rey final – and he could yet force himself into the top 10 come December.
#13 Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: 20 goals, 11 assists. Won Copa del Rey.
Few outside Spain may have realised, but Griezmann enjoyed a pretty strong second half of the season at Barcelona, with his performances consistently close to the level that he reached at Atletico Madrid.
He has since arrived at Euro 2020 and been France’s most impressive player in their first two matches, meaning that if they do go all the way to the final, he could put together a decent resume for the Ballon d’Or judges to mull over.
#12 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 20th
In 2021: 12 goals, nine assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Heading into the Copa America, Neymar knew he had a lot of catching up to do in the Ballon d’Or race, but he has made the perfect start to the summer.
The PSG star has four goals and three assists in Brazil’s four competitive internationals since the start of June, with the Selecao looking deserving of their tag of favourites to win the Copa after making a blistering start on home soil.
#11 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 11th
In 2021: 25 goals, nine assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
After signning off for the season with a winning goal against Luxembourg in a friendly appearance for Norway, Haaland must now watch on as the other challengers for the Ballon d’Or state their cases in front of a worldwide audience at tournaments.
That will not keep him out of the headlines as his future remains up the in the air, but it is unlikely to help his chances of claiming end-of-year accolades.
#10 Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Last time: 9th
In 2021: 11 goals, seven assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Despite some flashes, Foden has not quite lived up to the Paul Gascoigne-esque haircut at Euro 2020 as yet, though that perhaps should be expected since he only turned 21 in May.
The Three Lions will be hoping that the supremely talented midfielder can provide some magic in the latter stages and guide them to the final for the very first time.
#9 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 8th
In 2021: 18 goals, five assists.
Benzema’s return to the France team has not quite gone to plan as yet, with missed opportunities underpinning his appearances for Didier Deschamps’ side so far.
He is, however, getting in good goalscoring positions, and he is so talented that if that continues then he will eventually start getting himself on the scoresheet for Les Bleus.
#8 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Last time: 6th
In 2021: One goal, 19 clean sheets. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Dias has not looked himself at times at Euro 2020, with the Premier League Player of the Year being relied upon to lead a Portugal defence that is undoubtedly the weakest part of their team.
That said, if the Seleccao go onto defend their crown, expect the City star to skyrocket back into contention for the biggest individual prize of them all.
#7 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Last time: 10th
In 2021: 25 goals, four assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Try as you might, you just cannot keep Ronaldo down when his eyes are trained on making yet more history.
With three goals in his opening two Euro 2020 appearances he has already emerged as a frontrunner for the Golden Boot, and now looks nailed on to break the men’s international goalscoring record on the biggest stage possible.
If he does, should that put the five-time winner at the front of the Ballon d’Or queue for 2021?
#6 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Last time: 5th
In 2021: 30 goals, 10 assists. Won Copa del Rey.
Whisper it quietly, but if nothing changes in the next 10 days then Lionel Messi will be without a club for the first time in his career. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
On the pitch, the Barcelona star unfurled one of his trademark free-kicks to get Argentina’s Copa America campaign under way, though they look some way short of hosts Brazil, meaning Messi’s wait for a major international trophy could be set to go on once more.
#5 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
Last time: 7th
In 2021: 20 goals, seven assists. Won Serie A.
For fans who did not catch much of Lukaku in Serie A this season, the opening week of Euro 2020 should have got them up to speed on just how much of a dominant figure he was in Inter’s Scudetto win.
Two complete performances from the No.9 has helped secure a place in the last 16 for Roberto Martinez’s side, and with two goals already he is well in the race for the Golden Boot too.
#4 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 3rd
In 2021: 32 goals, four assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.
While he may have scored the goal that kept Poland in Euro 2020, it looks set to be another disappointing summer for Lewandowski at an international tournament.
Is a historic league campaign enough in a year with two major finals? Right now it doesn’t seem so for the Bayern Munich star.
#3 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 4th
In 2021: 10 goals, nine assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
De Bruyne was not happy with the way his club season ended at the Champions League, and if his cameo appearance against Denmark is anything to go by, he is out for revenge at Euro 2020.
Undoubtedly the best creative midfielder on the planet, this summer could prove to be a defining one for the great Belgian, as well as one that secures him the biggest individual honour of them all.
#2 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 2nd
In 2021: 29 goals, five assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Though it was eventually ruled out for offside, Mbappe’s superb individual strike against Germany in France’s opening game at Euro 2020 served notice that he is not about to slow down anytime soon as he goes in search of a second major international trophy before his 23rd birthday.
Defences have been warned – the PSG sensation is just getting warmed up.
#1 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Last time: 1st
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League.
If France win Euro 2020, and Mbappe does not win the either the Golden Boot or Player of the Tournament prize, then the Ballon d’Or should be Kante’s following his heroics for Chelsea.
He has picked up where he left off in the Champions League final for Les Bleus, and has the potential to dominate any game, regardless of the opponent.