Ballon d'Or 2021: The players who should have been shortlisted

Somehow these two missed out
Somehow these two missed out / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

It's that time of the year again: Ballon d'Or award season, baby!

The trophy for the best individual player of the season tends to split opinions, with many not really understanding why one player should be singled out to such extremes in a team sport, while others love the idea of a GOAT or one superstar being particularly 'clear' of the rest.

Anyway, a 30-man shortlist of potential Ballon d'Or winners was drawn up for 2021, and as always, it left us all questioning whether those most heavily involved in football actually watch the games or know anything about the sport.

There were some surprise inclusions on the list - especially when considering the unfortunate superstars who missed out in their place. So, which players deserved to be included in the 30-man Ballon d'Or nomination list?

Here's nine of them - ranked.

9. Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller
Muller is a unique player / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

For a brief three-week spell in every season, it becomes really fashionable to talk about how underrated Thomas Muller is, and how he deserves to be recognised as one of the greats.

That conversation is quickly forgotten however, until it emerges roughly 12 months later. Clearly, it wasn't the trend to hype up the Bayern star when they made their decisions over Ballon d'Or nominees.

30 goal contributions since the start of last season, but Muller will be watching the Ballon d'Or ceremony as Robert Lewandowski's plus-one this year.

8. Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa
A deserving winner - and Ballon d'Or nominee / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

Juventus' miserable Serie A form last season probably cost Federico Chiesa a place among the shortlisted superstars, but c'mon, the kid is playing his best football right now.

Chiesa was a star at Euro 2020, playing a key role in Italy's glorious summer campaign, while putting himself firmly on the radar of the game's elite clubs. He's already opened his account in Serie A and the Champions League this season, and he's ready to become the Old Lady's main man.

7. Lorenzo Insigne

Lorenzo Insigne
A Euro 2020 hero / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Lorenzo Insigne's iconic moment at Euro 2020 came in the quarter final victory over Belgium, bending his trademark curler past one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

He's started the new season in great form too, helping Napoli maintain a 100% winning record to sit top of Serie A. He'll be a God in Naples should he propel them to an unthinkable title success, and a Ballon d'Or nomination shouldn't be too far off.

6. Jan Oblak

Jan Oblak
La Liga champion / Emilio Andreoli/GettyImages

When we think about players whose reputation suffers due to their nationality, Jan Oblak has to be one of the most heavily affected. The Slovenian is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but rarely gets to prove it on the international stage.

He was pivotal to Atletico Madrid's first La Liga title since 2014, winning points with several last minute saves - including clutch stops from the penalty spot. A brick wall.

5. Son Heung-min

Son Heung-min
MVP / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

If Harry Kane is Batman, it's time Robin gets his moment in the sun! Son Heung-min is by far the most popular player at Tottenham Hotspur right now, and it's easy to see why.

22 goals and 17 assists told the story of half of a love affair with Kane, as the two combined to break a Premier League record for the most goal contributions between two players over a single season.

Son is a genuinely world class player, and were he playing for a team in the top four, he'd be receiving much higher praise. It's not his fault he plays with Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez (well, it kinda is, but you get the point).

4. Stefan de Vrij

Stefan de Vrij
The best at the back / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

It's crazy that Inter's backline didn't receive the plaudits it deserved for the 2021 league title success. The Nerazzurri conceded only 35 goals and picked up 91 points last year, breaking their 11-year duck without the big trophy.

At the heart of that defensive wall was Stefan de Vrij, one of the smartest pieces of business and best free transfers that football has ever seen. He holds that rearguard together, and should be recognised for his displays.

3. Edouard Mendy

Edouard Mendy
A Champions League winner / Kaz Photography/GettyImages

This is extremely baffling. Edouard Mendy was nominated for the 2021 Yashin Trophy award after he performed endless heroics and steadied the Chelsea backline on their way to Champions League glory.

Somehow, he missed out on a Ballon d'Or nomination, while Gianluigi Donnarumma, who provided a similar service (over a shorter period of time) for Italy, got the nod. Not sure about that one.

2. Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba
Pogba's been back to his best / Marco Canoniero/GettyImages

Just going to check if Graeme Souness was part of the Ballon d'Or selection committee, because this is pretty mental. Paul Pogba delivered one of the best displays ever seen from a player on the losing side in France's Euro 2020 exit to Switzerland, and has started the new season in similar fashion.

He's broken the record for the most assists recorded at the start of a Premier League campaign for Manchester United, and continues to deliver - even when he gets shifted around the starting lineup.

He's one of the best midfielders in the world, and his name should be in those 30 nominees.

1. Joshua Kimmich

Joshua Kimmich
No Kimmich? Seriously?! / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Whoever put together that 30-man shortlist 'does not know ball', as the kids say nowadays. It's impossible that they know what they're doing, since they inexplicably missed Joshua Kimmich off the list.

The Germany international can play a number of positions with ambidextrous ease, and does so for one of the best clubs and national teams in the world.

He's absolutely glorious to watch over 90 minutes, and frankly, it's a scandal he's been left off the list.