Ballon d'Or

Ballon d'Or 2021: The favourites for football's top individual honour - ranked

Lionel Messi is looking to win his 7th Ballon d'Or
Lionel Messi is looking to win his 7th Ballon d'Or / Kristy Sparow/Getty Images

The 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or is upon us, and there are so many players who you feel are in with a genuine shout of winning.

Lionel Messi is battling for his seventh prize, and while he's guaranteed to be towards the top of the standings, there are plenty of other superstars from around the world who would argue they have been the standout player.

Could it be Erling Haaland? Could it be Jorginho? In theory, yes.

But there's only one logical thing to do, and that's rank the top 15 contenders by their likelihood to win.

15. Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Harry Kane
Kane elevated his game in 2021 / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

A lack of trophies continues to harm Harry Kane's chances of winning the Ballon d'Or, which is a real shame as the Englishman was in the best form of his life for the majority of 2021.

An elite goalscorer, Kane added an impressive creativity streak to his game this year, and he'd be far higher in these rankings had he got his hands on some silverware.

14. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan, PSG)

Gianluigi Donnarumma
Donnarumma was Euro 2020's top player / CPS Images/GettyImages

Having been named the best player of Euro 2020, Gianluigi Donnarumma would have been the guaranteed winner of the Ballon d'Or in years gone by. Success at such a high-profile event was pretty much all it used to take.

There's obviously no discrediting that success, but in a world in which multiple trophies and countless excellent performances are necessary to win the prize, Donnarumma is likely to come up short.

13. Romelu Lukaku (Inter, Chelsea)

Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku joined Chelsea in the summer / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Romelu Lukaku fired Inter to the Serie A title, ending Juventus' reign of dominance, and then earned himself a £97.5m move to Chelsea. That's not a bad haul from a year.

The fact that he's only 13th on these rankings speaks volumes of the level of competition Lukaku is up against.

12. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Kylian Mbappe
2021 was not Mbappe's finest year / John Berry/GettyImages

By Kylian Mbappe's ridiculously lofty standards, 2021 has been a bit of a rough year. Not only did his PSG side lose their grip on the Ligue 1 title, but he failed to make a splash at the Euros as France were dumped out early.

In today's Ballon d'Or race, winning trophies is as important as ever, and Mbappe doesn't have the cabinet needed for a genuine push at this one.

11. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Erling Haaland
Haaland's goalscoring has been impressive / OZAN KOSE/GettyImages

Erling Haaland has scored a ridiculous number of goals for Borussia Dortmund in 2021, but like Mbappe, translating that into trophies has been rough.

He did win the DfB-Pokal and was named the Champions League Forward of the Season, but that's just not enough to get you by in the Ballon d'Or race these days.

10. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Ngolo Kante
Kante was excellent in the Champions League / David Ramos/GettyImages

When you win the Man of the Match awards in both legs of the Champions League semi-final and the final, your claim of being the best in the world has to be listened to.

N'Golo Kante enjoyed an excellent end to the 2020/21 season, proving his ability on the grandest stage in club football. Had his France side won at Euro 2020, he'd have had this wrapped up.

9. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Rúben Dias
Dias has solidified City's backline / Visionhaus/GettyImages

FWA Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season, Champions League Defender of the Season - just three of the accolades Ruben Dias scooped during the 2020/21 campaign, his first at Manchester City.

The 24-year-old not only helped deliver another Premier League title for Pep Guardiola's City, he helped steer the club to the Champions League final for the first time - though they ultimately came up short.

In the same way that Virgil van Dijk shored up Liverpool's defence, Dias has elevated City's to the next level - and is now regarded as one of the best in the business.

8. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

Giorgio Chiellini
Chiellini was sensational for Italy at Euro 2020 / Marco Canoniero/GettyImages

Juventus have been pretty ordinary throughout 2021, so that's likely to count against Giorgio Chiellini in the race for the Ballon d'Or.

But the veteran defender, now 37, proved at Euro 2020 that he remains one of the most complete centre-backs in world football, as he guided Italy to success under Roberto Mancini.

7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus, Man Utd)

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has impressed back in England / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Just the Coppa Italia for Cristiano Ronaldo, whose lack of major silverware is likely to be too much for voters to ignore.

36 goals in 44 appearances for Juventus was an incredible haul from Ronaldo, but he'll be harmed by the toxic slump endured by Manchester United at the end of the year.

6. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne is in with a shout / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

The PFA Players' Player of the Year for the second year running, it's clear that Kevin De Bruyne's peers see him in an elite light.

He pulled the strings for Manchester City as they wrestled the Premier League title back to the Etihad, and that's always going to count for a lot in the Ballon d'Or vote.

5. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Karim Benzema
Benzema is in with an outside chance / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Since his split from Ronaldo in 2018, Karim Benzema has taken his game to a new level - but he upped it even further in 2021.

With a ridiculous return of both goals and assists, Real Madrid's lead talisman has looked like the the best player on the planet at times, but a trophy-less season and a disappointing showing at Euro 2020 will limit how well he does here.

4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Mohamed Salah
Salah has been electric in 2021/22 / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Salah has been in outstanding form at the start of the 2021/22 season, firing red-hot for Liverpool in both the Premier League and Champions League.

The Egyptian is regarded by some as the best player in the world right now, given his exploits, though the Reds' lack of success over the last 12 months may prevent him from picking up the top gong.

Winning the Ballon d'Or is perhaps a step too far, but Salah's forced his way into the conversation.

3. Jorginho (Chelsea)

Jorginho has enjoyed unparalleled success / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

If you want an example of how influential trophies are to the Ballon d'Or race, look no further than Jorginho. The Chelsea man wouldn't be on most fans' list to win the prize normally, but he has forced his way there.

Influential in Chelsea's Champions League win, Jorginho then went and excelled as Italy won Euro 2020, and then he added the Super Cup to his rapidly expanding trophy cabinet. If you can mastermind that kind of success, you'll always have a shot at winning the ultimate prize.

2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski would be a worthy winner / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Robert Lewandowski, who deserved this award in 2020, has absolutely everything needed to finally get his hands on the Ballon d'Or this time around.

Not only did his Bayern Munich side win the Bundesliga, DfL Supercup, Club World Cup and Super Cup, they did so thanks to Lewandowski's return of 48 goals and nine assists in just 40 games.

That's absolutely mental and nobody deserves the Ballon d'Or more than him - although...

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona, PSG)

Lionel Messi
Messi is always among the favourites / Gustavo Pagano/GettyImages

Lionel Messi didn't win the most trophies this year, yet he's still overwhelming favourite to pick up a seventh Ballon d'Or win.

Barcelona's Copa del Rey success is hardly anything to brag about (given the lofty standards of the Catalan giants) but Copa America success with Argentina is a completely different story.

Accused of failing in the big moments for his country in the past, Messi stood up tall this time around to finally secure major international success for his country - while he continues to do things in games that most mortals can only dream of.