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Ranked

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

Tom Gott
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
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With Euro 2020 and the Copa America over, we now know which players are in with a realistic shout of lifting the Ballon d'Or later this year.

There are plenty of stars who will hope to pick up a good few votes after strong seasons, but there are already a few emerging from the chasing pack as undisputed favourites to take home the greatest individual prize in football.

Here's a ranked run-down of the most-likely winners as it stands.


15. Neymar

Neymar Jr
Neymar is unlikely to be in the running / John Berry/Getty Images

Some excellent showings at the Copa America have dragged Neymar's name back into this conversation.

However, he'll need a much better start to this season with PSG than he had last year, when injuries stopped him from reaching his best.

There simply may be too much ground to make up, and a first top five finish since 2017 might be a more realistic target now.

14. Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa
Chiesa has boosted his chances / Nicolò Campo/Getty Images

Federico Chiesa really shone towards the end of Euro 2020, and now there are more eyes on him than ever before. Gianluigi Donnarumma may have bagged the Euros Player of the Tournament, but in terms of attackers, no-one was more important for the Azzurri than Chiesa.

If he can take the next step with Juventus, for whom he bagged nine goals and nine assists last year, he'll be right in the mix for the Ballon d'Or when the time comes.

13. Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling
Sterling was excellent at Euro 2020 / Susan Vera - Pool/Getty Images

A regular part of the Manchester City side that roared to Premier League glory (even if it wasn't his best season individually), Raheem Sterling's stock rose to a new level with some inspirational performances at Euro 2020.

He was England's hero as he led the Three Lions to the final and could easily climb up the standings if he can carry that form over to club level in 2021/22.

12. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland
Haaland's scoring rate makes him a contender / Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

When you score as many goals as Erling Haaland does, you have to be one of the frontrunners for the Ballon d'Or.

The main problem for Haaland is a lack of silverware with either club or country. But if he can turn his club into title favourites in the next six months, he has a shot at cracking the top ten at least.

11. Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema
Benzema carried Real Madrid for months / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Tasked with carrying Real Madrid single-handedly at times, Karim Benzema has been producing some of the best football of his career across the past few seasons.

A big showing at Euro 2020 upon his return to the France team would have helped his cause immeasurably, but what we actually got might actually have had the opposite impact.

While his individual performances were strong, France's early exit - coupled with Madrid's own mediocrity - means Benz is a long shot at best.

10. Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma
Donnarumma was brilliant at Euro 2020 / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

The Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020, Gianluigi Donnarumma will be a favourite among many voters.

Now at PSG, the Italian goalkeeper is expected to compete for silverware again this season, and performing on a bigger platform may be what the 22-year-old needs to win another individual prize.

No keeper has won the award since Lev Yashin in 1963. The fact that there is now a separate Yashin Trophy for goalkeepers (also awarded by France Football) significantly reduces his Donnarumma's chances in the main category.

9. Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe's wait may go on / John Berry/Getty Images

Having come up short in Ligue 1, the Champions League and the Euros, Kylian Mbappe is going to need something special if he is to win his first Ballon d'Or this year.

It's no secret that he is one of the best players on the planet, but without those trophies, it's hard to see Mbappe lifting the prize.

He has not finished outside the top seven, since bursting onto the season back in the 2016/17 season.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo's chances of winning appear slim / Marco Canoniero/Getty Images

Despite all the speculation around his future, Cristiano Ronaldo has remained as cold and calculated in front of goal as ever.

The Euro 2020 Golden Boot winner has the stats and individual accolades needed to win the Ballon d'Or, but underwhelming showings from both Juventus and Portugal will weigh him down.

7. Harry Kane

Harry Kane
Kane had an excellent individual season / Visionhaus/Getty Images

2020/21 was arguably Harry Kane's most impressive season on an individual level. The Premier League's top scorer racked up 33 goals and 17 assists in 49 games and then bagged four goals en route to the final of Euro 2020.

You can't ignore those numbers, but you also can't ignore the fact that England came up short at the Euros, and Tottenham ended the season in seventh.

He may break the top ten, or even five, but the top prize seems unlikely for Kane.

6. Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne could have done with Euro 2020 success / David Ramos/Getty Images

Seen by most as the best creative midfielder on the planet, Kevin De Bruyne was inspirational as Manchester City won the Premier League and reached the final of the Champions League.

The fact that he won the PFA Player of the Year proves his greatness is acknowledged, but unfortunately for De Bruyne, there are a few players making a little more noise right now.

5. Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku was dominant with Inter / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku ended Juventus' reign of dominance in Serie A with 30 goals and ten assists in all competitions, but you get the feeling that he needed to win Euro 2020 with Belgium to be in with a real shot of winning the Ballon d'Or.

If he keeps scoring at a consistent rate and the Red Devils can win the Nations League in October, Lukaku's chances of winning might be handed a hefty boost.

4. N'Golo Kante

N'Golo Kante
Kante would be a popular winner / MB Media/Getty Images

When you're named the Man of the Match for both legs of the Champions League semi-final and the final, you're in with a good shout of winning the Ballon d'Or.

N'Golo Kante has proved his greatness on the biggest stage, but without the Euro 2020 trophy to add to his cabinet, Kante's wait for the ultimate honour might go on.

3. Jorginho

Jorginho
Jorginho has the trophies to make a case / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Unlike Kante, Jorginho did end up winning Euro 2020, playing a starring role in Italy's quest for continental dominance.

When you add that to his Champions League triumph with Chelsea, you'll see why Jorginho is seen by many as one of the favourites to take home the prize.

He may not be the best footballer purely on talent, but few (if any) have had a better year.

2. Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski deserved to win in 2020 / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The deserving winner from 2020, it would be nice to see Robert Lewandowski's successes from last year acknowledged, but he might well end up with this year's trophy to wipe his tears away.

The best striker on the planet for a while now, Lewandowski has dominated in the Bundesliga and performed at a level higher than nearly anyone else on the planet.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
Messi is the heavy favourite / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The leading contender to take home his seventh Ballon d'Or is Lionel Messi, who has been on an entirely new level in 2021.

He dragged Barcelona back into the La Liga title race, putting up some unbelievable numbers in the process - he ended 2020/21 with 38 goals and 14 assists - and finally ended his international hoodoo with Argentina at the Copa America. It'll take something special to knock Messi off this perch.


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