With the football season finally now finished, talk has already turned to the Ballon d’Or, with a number of candidates emerging during this summer’s Copa America and European Championship.
But who are the frontrunners as things stand? We’ve taken a look at Nine candidates for the prize.
The Pole had a European Championship to forget, which will likely count against him, but his Bayern Munich excellence shouldn’t be overlooked.
Lewandowski broke a long-standing Bundesliga record by netting 41 goals in 29 appearances in 2020/21, but still somehow lost out to Erling Haaland as player of the season in Germany.
27 goals, four assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Ronaldo have secured himself the Euro 2020 Golden Boot as he edged out Patrik Schick thanks to a solitary assist, but that will not ease the pain of Portugal’s early exit.
Factor in the identity of the now likely Ballon d’Or winner for 2021, and his mood will not have been lifted.
The Italian defender would be an unlikely winner, but his performances at Euro 2020 are worthy of serious recognition. The veteran defender built a wall alongside Leonardo Bonucci and in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Italy wouldn’t have won the European Championship without him.
No defender has won the prize since Fabio Cannavaro after leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup, and it might be time for that to change now.
The out-of-contract Argentine wouldn’t have been a serious contender had he not won the Copa America, but guiding Argentina to their first silverware since 1993 cannot be downplayed.
Messi has achieved immortality now with his country – as he already had with Barcelona – and even with the Catalans he showed some of his very best form in 2021.
The much-maligned midfielder is a double European champion, having won the Champions League with Chelsea and the European Championship with Italy.
Both the Champions League and international competitions tend to go a long way to determining the Ballon d’Or winner, so the former Napoli man probably has as good a case as anybody that he should be named the world’s best for 2021.
Had England won Euro 2020, then Kane might well have been the favourite to take the prize. The Tottenham forward took a while to warm up in the tournament, but he stepped up in the knockout rounds.
In the final, though, he was unable to get the better of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, but he had enjoyed a relatively good summer until then.
In 2021: 12 goals, 11 assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Neymar was imperious at times during the Copa America, but he could not inspire Brazil to a victory on home soil, meaning he finishes the year without a major trophy to his name.
His chances of claiming the biggest individual prize of them all, meanwhile, are running out fast.
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League.
Kante’s Man-of-the-Match-winning displays in the latter stages of the Champions League might be enough to secure him a place in the top three, but right now it feels as if the Chelsea man is on the outside looking in at the Ballon d’Or podium.
In 2021: 29 goals, seven assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Mbappe may be the cover star of FIFA 22, but a place on the Ballon d’Or podium is now highly unlikely for the PSG forward after a year of memorable Champions League performances but no major trophies.
Nine goals, four assists. Won Champions League.
Mount played a key role in helping England reach the Euro 2020 final, starting five of their seven matches, and that, coupled with the part he played in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph, means he should get one or two Ballon d’Or votes when they are cast later this year.