lthough the 2021 Ballon d’Or is still a few months away, the winner may have already clinched their spot on the podium.
The famous individual award will be presented in December, but there is still plenty more football to be played in the meantime. However, the award has traditionally been judged on the previous season, the Champions League, and significant international events.
Now that the 2020-21 campaign, as well as the Copa America and Euro 2020, are over, it’s a good time to assess the frontrunners. Eight of the most deserving candidates are listed below.
After been robbed of a rightful award when France Football scrapped the 2020 award following a season in which he scored 55 goals in 47 games as Bayern Munich won the treble, Lewandowski can believe he’s overdue for one, similar to Martin Scorsese ultimately earning an Oscar for “The Departed.”
Still, “The Departed” was a fantastic film, as was Lewandowski’s 2020-21 season, in which he won the European Golden Shoe and shattered Gerd Muller’s 49-year Bundesliga goal-scoring record with 41 goals in only 29 appearances.
Bayern’s Champions League exit, in which he was injured for both legs against PSG, has not tarnished his reputation. Poland did not perform well at Euro 2020, but he did score three goals in three games and came close to leading Poland to qualification from the group stage by scoring twice against Sweden in a late comeback.
Messi, who has held the title since 2019, is the odds-on favorite to keep it. He already has six, and his role in leading Argentina, this year, to their first Copa America title since 1993 – most goals, most assists, and player of the tournament – might see him add to that total.
Barcelona’s deterioration continues, as they had another disappointing season, but they did win the Copa del Rey, with Messi scoring twice in the final. With 30 goals and 11 assists in 35 appearances in 2020-21, he can hardly be blamed for their failures in La Liga.
Juventus’ season was cut short by bad performances against Porto in the Champions League, and they failed to win the league title for the first time in a decade. Similarly, Portugal’s defense of their European Championship crown didn’t go as planned, as they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Belgium’s Lukaku.
Nonetheless, Ronaldo’s name is never far from individual honors, which he seems to pursue with the same zeal as trophies for his teams.
We are sure Jorge Mendes, the super-agent, would be proud to point out that his client won the Golden Boot at Euro 2020 with five goals and an assist. He has now surpassed Iran icon Ali Daei as the all-time leading scorer in international football history.
For the first time, the 36-year-old won the Capocannoniere trophy for Serie A’s best scorer, scoring 29 goals for the Old Lady (Juventus FC) as they squeaked into the Champions League with a fourth-place finish.
Chelsea’s Champions League win was largely due to Kante, who was named man of the match in both legs of their semi-final against Real Madrid and in the final against Manchester City.
Many anticipated him to follow up by winning Euro 2020 with heavy favorites France, but it didn’t exactly turn out that way, as Switzerland shocked France, the current FIFA World Cup Holder, in the round of 16. That is not to say he is not still a contender.
Jorginho (Jorge Luiz FrelloFilho)
Jorginho was a firm favorite of both Thomas Tuchel (Manager, Chelsea FC) and Roberto Mancini (Manager, Italy National Team). He played a significant role in the midfield engine room in a remarkable year for his club and country, far more so than his Chelsea and Italy team-mate, Emerson.
Jorginho had the tournament that many predicted for his Chelsea FC midfield partner N’Golo Kante; he won the trophy, and no one at Euro 2020 covered more ground than him.
In the semi-final shootout victory over Spain, he also struck a signature spot-kick, and while Jordan Pickford (England’s goalkeeper) denied him the same delight in the final, his blushes were saved.
Kane might have been the frontrunner to win the prize if England had won Euro 2020. The Tottenham FC striker took some time to warm up in the tournament, but he really came into his own in the knockout rounds.
He could not beat the strong and resilient Italian backline comprising the duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in the final, but he had had a fantastic summer up to that point.
With a pivotal role in Inter Milan’s first Scudetto in 11 years, the former Manchester United and Chelsea striker earned his first trophy since he was a teenager at Anderlecht.
In 36 Serie A appearances, Lukaku scored 24 goals and added 11 assists to end Juventus’ nine-year reign. He also looked sharp for Belgium at Euro 2020, scoring four goals in five games to bring his total international goal record to a mind-boggling 64.
This defender from Italy is a long way to winning this prestigious award, but his achievements at Euro 2020 are worthy of praise. Without him, Italy probably would not have capped the coveted European Championship. He formed an almost impenetrable defensive wall alongside Leonardo Bonucci and in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Since Fabio Cannavarocaptained and inspired the Italian team to winning the World Cup in 2006 and as such, won the Ballon d’Or that year, no defender has come close to winning the award ever since. It may be high time now for that to change.