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2021 Ballon d'Or: who are the nominees and favourites to win?

After cancelling the award in 2020 due to covid-19, France Football is to hand out the 2021 Men's Ballon d'Or and Women's Ballon d'Or in Paris on 29 November.

HOFFENHEIM, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Alexia Putellas of Barcelona scores the first goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Women's Champions League group C match between 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Barcelona at Ditmar-Hopp-Stadion on November 17, 2021 in
Alex GrimmGetty Images

After taking a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Ballon d’Or is back in 2021. Held at Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet on Monday 29 November, the Ballon d’Or gala will see France Football magazine recognise the world’s outstanding men’s and women’s players during the past calendar year.

While 2019 winner Lionel Messi is firmly in the running to retain his Men’s Ballon d’Or, the holder of the women’s award, Megan Rapinoe, isn’t even among the nominees this year, with all-conquering Barcelona looking likeliest to supply the next recipient of the Women’s Ballon d’Or.

Five favourites for the 2021 Men’s Ballon d’Or:

Lionel Messi

Despite his slow start at Paris Saint-Germain, where he has mustered just one Ligue 1 goal, Lionel Messi is, together with Robert Lewandowski, the chief favourite. Messi’s 30 LaLiga goals almost dragged a seriously ropey Barcelona team to the Spanish title last season, while his brace helped the Blaugrana to victory over Athletic Club in April’s 2021 Copa del Rey final. The 34-year-old then ended his international trophy hoodoo with Argentina at this summer’s Copa América, winning player of the tournament and finishing as joint-top scorer as the Albiceleste beat hosts Brazil in the final to lift their first major trophy since 1993.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski was the major victim of the cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d’Or. Having scored 55 goals in all competitions to lead Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble in 2019/20, the striker would surely have added the France Football accolade to his 2020 Best FIFA Men’s Player and 2019/20 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year awards. Last season, the Pole finished with 48 goals for Bayern as the Bavarians won their ninth straight German title, and he already has another 25 to his name this term.

Karim Benzema

Benzema is in the form of his life for Real Madrid. Having hit 30 goals in all competitions for Madrid last season, he is currently on 15 in 17 for Los Blancos this term and, other than perhaps Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, there is no more impressive performer in the men’s game right now. The striker has also scored nine times for France already since his return to the international fold in June, including four at Euro 2020. Benzema had been in exile from Les Bleus for six years over his part in the Mathieu sex-tape affair, for which a French court convicted him of attempted blackmail on Wednesday.


A European champion with Chelsea and Italy in 2021, Jorginho scooped UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year award for 2020/21 after pulling the strings from midfield in both trophy triumphs. The 29-year-old also helped Chelsea to UEFA Super Cup success in August, and has been pivotal once more for the Blues as Thomas Tuchel’s men have established themselves as major challengers for this season’s Premier League title.

Mohamed Salah

Salah has been at the peak of his powers this season, scoring 17 goals in 18 games in all competitions so far for Liverpool - a haul that includes a club-record run of netting in 10 consecutive matches for the Reds. And while Liverpool endured a difficult, injury-plagued campaign in 2020/21, Salah still managed an excellent return of 31 goals. The Egyptian’s step-up this term from excellent to breathtaking has probably come too late for him to beat the likes of Messi and Lewandowski to the 2021 Ballon d’Or, though.

The winner of 2020's Best FIFA Men's Player award, Robert Lewandowski would very likely have also lifted the Ballon d'Or last year had it not been cancelled.
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The winner of 2020's Best FIFA Men's Player award, Robert Lewandowski would very likely have also lifted the Ballon d'Or last year had it not been cancelled.VALENTYN OGIRENKOREUTERS

2021 Men's Ballon d'Or nominees: full list

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Rúben Días (Manchester City), Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Jorginho (Chelsea), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Harry Kane (Tottenham), N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), Simon Kjaer (AC Milan), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Lautaro Martínez (Inter Milan), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Pedri (Barcelona), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Luis Suárez (Atlético Madrid).

See also:

Five favourites for the 2021 Women’s Ballon d’Or:

Alexia Putellas

Barcelona players dominate the list of the favourites for the Women’s Ballon d’Or, after a 2020/21 campaign in which the Blaugrana completed a Liga Iberdrola, Copa de la Reina and Champions League treble. A key figure in the Catalans’ current domination of the domestic and European game is Putellas, who scored 26 times for Barça last term, including a first-half penalty in the 4-0 Champions League final demolition of Chelsea. So far this season, the 27-year-old has averaged over a goal a game for Barcelona: 14 in 13. In August, Putellas was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year for 2020/21.

Jenni Hermoso

Hermoso was the top scorer in the Liga Iberdrola last season, her 31 league goals firing Barcelona to a second straight Spanish title. It was the third year running that Hermoso had topped the goal charts in Spain’s elite division. The 31-year-old was also joint-top scorer in the 2020/21 Champions League, her six European goals seeing her share the golden boot with Chelsea’s Fran Kirby. In 11 appearances for Barça thus far this term, Hermoso has plundered nine goals.

Lieke Martens

Yet another Barça player among the chief contenders for the Women’s Ballon d’Or, Martens scored 20 in 36 for the Catalans during their treble-winning season in 2020/21, and starred in the Copa de la Reina final win over Levante and Champions League final hammering of Chelsea. Named The Best FIFA Women’s Player and UEFA’s Women’s Player of the Year in 2017, the 28-year-old netted four times for the Netherlands at this summer’s Olympics, and has nine goals in 12 for Barcelona in 2021/22.

Fran Kirby

Kirby hit 16 goals for Chelsea as the Blues won the Women’s Super League in 2020/21, as well as providing 11 assists. The England international was also the joint-leading scorer in the Champions League, scoring six times for Chelsea as the West Londoners finished as runners-up following a final thumping by Barcelona in Gothenburg.

Sam Kerr

Kerr grabbed a division-high 21 goals in Chelsea’s triumphant Women’s Super League campaign last season, before netting six times for Australia as the Matildas finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, having been pipped to a medal by the United States in a 4-3 thriller in the bronze-medal match. This season, the 28-year-old has been in even better scoring form for Chelsea, racking up 13 goals in 12 games in all competitions so far.

2021 Women's Ballon d'Or nominees: full list

Kadidiatou Diani (Paris Saint-Germain), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jennifer Hermoso (Barcelona) Christiane Endler (Olympique Lyon), Christine Sinclair (Thorns FC), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Irene Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Lieke Martens (Barcelona), Sandra Paños (Barcelona), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Ellen White (Manchester City), Pernille Harder (Chelsea), Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyon), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris Saint-Germain), Stina Blackstenius (Hacken), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Alexia Putellas (Barcelona).