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 well behind us and both Euro 2020 and the Copa America hurtling towards a conclusion, 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 Nicolo Barella (Inter)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: Four goals, 10 assists. Won Serie A.
Not content with being an unsung hero in Inter’s triumphant Serie A campaign (at least outside of Italy), Barella has now brought his quiet excellence to Euro 2020.
His CmaTrends against Belgium, however, showcased his ability in the final third perfectly, and if the Azzurri go onto to claim the trophy on July 11, he will likely have played a key role in winning yet another major trophy in 2021.
#19 Pedri (Barcelona)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: Three goals, six assists. Won Copa del Rey.
Those who have watched Barcelona all season knew already the potential Pedri had before Euro 2020 kicked-off, but his performances over the course of the past few weeks have announced him to the world as a supreme talent.
Undoubtedly La Roja’s most consistent performer throughout the tournament, that Pedri is already being talked about as a future Ballon d’Or winner just shows the level at which he is performing while still over four months short of his 19th birthday.
#18 Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Last week: 14th
In 2021: 16 goals, six assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Given how he tailed off towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign and then struggled to make much of an impact at Euro 2020 as Germany suffered an early elimination, Gundogan’s brilliance around the turn of the year will likely be forgotten when the Ballon d’Or voters make their choices.
That said, his trophy haul for the year means he just pips Bruno Fernandes into the top 20 rankings ahead of the new season.
#17 Federico Chiesa (Juventus)
Last time: 18th
In 2021: 13 goals, five assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Now Chiesa has seemingly worked his way into Italy’s starting XI for the closing stages of Euro 2020, he has a real chance of establishing himself among the dark horses for this year’s Ballon d’Or if the Azzurri go onto win the tournament.
A true big-game player, do not be surprised if the Juventus star finds the net at least once more between now and Sunday’s final.
#16 Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Last time: 12th
In 2021: 11 goals, seven assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Having not played a single minute since England’s draw with Scotland in the group stages of Euro 2020, Foden’s chance to truly mark his arrival at the highest level on the international stage looks to be slipping away.
That should not take anything away from his outstanding club campaign, but any chance of him being in contention for the Ballon d’Or now looks to be gone.
#15 Jorginho (Chelsea)
Last time: NEW ENTRY
In 2021: Five goals, two assists. Won Champions League.
When Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or back in 2018, he did so by playing an important if not headline-grabbing role for the team which won the Champions League, before coming to prominence with his leadership and quality midfield play as a team based more on the collective than the individual somewhat surprisingly reached the final.
So ‘Modric’s Law’ was born.
Right now, there is no one better placed to benefit from ‘Modric’s Law’ than Jorginho as Italy continue to push for Euro 2020 glory.
#14 Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Last time: 16th
In 2021: Nine goals, four assists. Won Champions League.
Mount finds himself in front of club-mate Jorginho due his more prominent role in Chelsea’s Champions League success, while his advanced role means there are likely to be more opportunities for him to be decisive in the final week of Euro 2020.
The fact that he was straight back into England’s XI for their win over Ukraine suggests he will be key for Gareth Southgate’s side as they aim to plot their route to a first-ever European Championship final.
#13 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Last time: 10th
In 2021: One CmaTrends, 19 clean sheets. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Being a defender, Dias is always going to fall more sharply down this list than others given the lack of truly defining moments during his year to date.
That said, he remains the outstanding centre-back of 2021.
#12 Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Last time: 17th
In 2021: 22 goals, five assists.
It took him a little while, but Kane is back and firing on all cylinders as the England captain looks to guide his team to their first major trophy in 55 years.
His three goals across the wins over Germany and Ukraine helped cement his place among the world game’s elite No.9s, and further goals in the semi-final and potential final could yet skyrocket him back into Ballon d’Or contention too.
#11 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Last time: 8th
In 2021: 22 goals, five assists.
While there are accusations that his return caused friction in the France squad at Euro 2020, there is no doubt that Benzema’s performances remained at a high level upon his return to the international fold.
That he ends the season without a trophy will play against him when the Ballon d’Or votes are tallied, however, but 2021 has certainly been another stellar year for the Real Madrid star.
#10 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 11th
In 2021: 12 goals, 10 assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
The electric form in front of CmaTrends that Neymar was showing in the opening week of the Copa America seems to have deserted him somewhat, though the Selecao remain the favourites to lift the trophy ahead of the semi-finals with the PSG star still putting in some impressive performances.
Unless he can be decisive himself, though, that still probably won’t be enough for Neymar to challenge for the Ballon d’Or, given how far behind the rest of the challengers he was before the tournament.
#9 Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Last time: 9th
In 2021: 25 goals, nine assists. Won DFB-Pokal.
This may have been the week that Haaland lost in partner in crime as Jadon Sancho’s move to Manchester United was finally agreed, but that is unlikely to stop the Norway international from being a problem for opposition defences once more in 2021-22.
Given how the Ballon d’Or race has fallen in the past week, a hot start could even put him in contention for a top-five finish.
#8 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Last time: 20th
In 2021: 11 goals, six assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Two weeks ago, Sterling was not even in the top 20 of the Power Rankings, and now he finds himself right in the mix after a glorious Euro 2020 thus far.
His three goals in England’s opening four games of the tournament were backed up by a superb assist and even better pre-assist against Ukraine in the quarter-finals, with the Manchester City man now in with a shout of being named the Player of the Tournament.
#7 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Last time: 7th
In 2021: 27 goals, four assists. Won Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.
Ronaldo may have exited Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage, but he remains on course to collect the Golden Boot, with his sole assist keeping him ahead of Patrik Schick after the Czech Republic striker joined him on five goals for the tournament.
With his nearest challengers now needing at least two goals to catch him, the Portugal superstar may yet end the summer with some individual silverware.
#6 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Last time: 6th
In 2021: 10 goals, 10 assists. Won Premier League & Carabao Cup.
Undoubtedly the best creative midfielder on the planet, De Bruyne’s wait for a continental trophy at either club or international level goes on after Belgium’s quarter-final defeat at the hands of Italy.
As seen with the PFA Player of the Year award he won earlier this year, De Bruyne’s talent alone will still garner him votes in the Ballon d’Or race, even if his output does not compare to some of the other challengers.
#5 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Last time: 2nd
In 2021: 29 goals, seven assists. Won Coupe de France & Trophee des Champions.
Four games, no goals and the missed penalty that sealed France’s Euro 2020 fate – that was a tournament to forget for Mbappe.
And though his Champions League performances at Camp Nou and the Allianz Arena will not be forgotten by the Ballon d’Or voters, the fact that he will end 2021 without a major trophy to his name means that his chances of claiming the ultimate individual footballing prize may be over for another year.
#4 Romelu Lukaku (Inter)
Last time: 3rd
In 2021: 22 goals, seven assists. Won Serie A.
Lukaku and Belgium’s Euro 2020 dream may be over, but his performances during the tournament confirmed to those who do not watch Inter every week just how much of a well-rounded striker he has become at San Siro.
His role in the Nerazzurri’s Scudetto win means that he remains among the frontrunners for this year’s Ballon d’Or, but his chances of winning are are now much lower than they were.
#3 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Last time: 1st
In 2021: One assist. Won Champions League.
Man of the Match in both legs of a Champions League semi-final and the final, Kante can still look back on his 2020-21 and be pretty content despite France’s early exit from Euro 2020.
A podium finish in the Ballon d’Or would be just reward for the energetic midfielder.
#2 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Last time: 4th
In 2021: 34 goals, four assists. Won Bundesliga & Club World Cup.
With a host of contenders suffering earlier than predicted exits from Euro 2020, all of a sudden the Ballon d’Or race could yet be settled by the achievements of players during the club season.
With that in mind, Lewandowski has moved right back into contention, with his record-breaking Bundesliga campaign and feeling that he wrongfully missed out on the award in 2020 likely to help his case.
#1 Lionel Messi (Unattached)
Last time: 5th
In 2021: 33 goals, 13 assists. Won Copa del Rey.
As various Ballon d’Or contenders have fallen by the wayside in the last week, you have almost been able to see Messi come to the realisation that a seventh win is suddenly well within his grasp.
His performance levels at the Copa America have been irresistible, recording three goals and three assists in his last two games, and if he can guide the Albiceleste to the trophy, then there may well be no one who can catch him in the race for football’s biggest individual prize.
He may not have a club side at the moment, but that has not stopped Messi from, yet again, proving himself the world’s best once more.