In exactly two weeks, the winner of this year’s Ballon d’Or for men and women will be crowned at a ceremony in Paris, France.
For the men, the 2021 Ballon d’Or is the 65th edition and the award recognises the best footballers in the world for the year. The 30 nominees for the award were announced on 8th October 2021 and the The Ballon d’Or 2021 ceremony will take place on 29th November, at the Theatre du Chatelet in the French capital.
The 30 nominees are:
- Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
- Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
- Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
- Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)
- Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
- Harry Kane (Tottenham)
- Jorginho (Chelsea)
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
- Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
- Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)
- Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
- Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
- Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
- Mason Mount (Chelsea)
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
- Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan)
- Pedri (Barcelona)
- Phil Foden (Manchester City)
- Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
- Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
- Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
- Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)
- Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
- Simon Kjaer (AC Milan)
Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah of Liverpool are the only African nominees for the coveted award.
The Ballon d’Or award began in 1956 and it was then referred to as the “European Player Of the year award”. Only football players from Europe were qualified to receive it then. However, the rules were changed in 1995 to accept any footballer playing for a European club. In 2010 the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year were merged, with the world’s best player awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or, and footballers from all parts of the world became eligible. This merger did not last, as the original owners of Ballon d’Or, France Football magazine ended its partnership with FIFA on the project from 2016 and reverted from FIFA Ballon d’Or to just the Ballon d’Or.
All this while, the award was for only men. But in 2018, the first women’s Ballon d’Or award, known as Ballon d’Or Féminin was presented. Norwegian Ada Hegerberg of Olympique Lyonnais won it in 2018 while Megan Rapinoe of the USA was winner in 2019. Rapinoe is the current holder of the award because just like the men’s award, Ballon d’Or 2020 was not awarded for women due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi, then of Barcelona won the 2019 award to become the only sixth time winner, followed by Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo with five; four players have claimed the award on three occasions – Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten of the Netherlands and Michel Platini of France.
Because of the cancellation of last year’s award as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, the interest as to who wins the prize in 2021 has been heightened, with several individuals and organisations, including football managers, players and even betting companies speculating or suggesting who should win the award. This pressure is mostly for the men’s award.
Before crowning D-Day November 29, some of these groups and individuals have already given the award to their favourites.
Messi, now of PSG, Ronaldo of Manchester United, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski of Poland, who he FIFA Best player award in 2020 and Italy and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho Euro 2020 with his country and UEFA Champions League with his club are considered frontrunners, Liverpool’s Mo Salah who has been incredible this season for his club, France’s Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Kylian Mbappe of Real Madrid, Chelsea and PSG respectively, Bruno Fernandes of Portugal and Manchester United, Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City and Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea, Norway’s Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund and Hary Kane of Tottenham Hotspurs and England are not far behind.
While the names Messi and Ronaldo keeps coming up, there are those who feel the two have not been at their best in 2021 to merit another Ballon d’Or and that other players have done more for club and country.
Many managers and coaches of top clubs have bared their minds on who should be chosen as Ballon d’Or winner for this year. Of course their choices seem to be influenced by the relationship they have with the players.
For instance former Manchester United Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson believes that Cristiano Ronaldo should be chosen as winner of the choice soccer prize this year. Everyone knows the relationship between the two, especially recently when it was said the Sir Ferguson was instrumental to Ronaldo re-signing for Man United a second time.
According to Ferguson, Ronaldo deserves the Ballon d’ Or because he has broken record after record this year. Recall that Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer in men’s international football after surpassing Iran’s Ali Daei’s record this year.
Ferguson’s counterpart at Arsenal during their coaching days, Arsene Wenger backs his countryman and Real Madrid striker, 33-year-old Karim Benzema to win the Ballon d’Or this year based on individual form and consistency. Benzema was part of the French team that won the UEFA Nations League trophy this year.
Wenger’s standpoint is supported by another French legend, former Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, who also feels Karim Benzema, is the player that deserves to win the Ballon d’ Or this year. Interviewed by Telefoot Magazine, Zidane described Benzema as an incredible player.
Thomas Tuchel, the German Chelsea boss, in line with relationship, names his club’s midfielder, 29-year-old Jorginho, as the player that deserves to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or, describing the player as very intelligent, with a great vision of football.
Apart from football managers and players, fans also have their preferences and in all of this, there is always a leaning to the player with whom those who are choosing have relationships with. There ought to be a unemotional disposition to making such a choice.
A selection of international journalists, national team coaches and captains vote to decide the winner of the Ballon d’Or, unlike for the previously combined FIFA Ballon d’Or, which was based on votes from national team coaches and captains, who selected the players they deemed to have performed the best in the previous calendar year.
The Ballon d’Or panel will choose their top five from the 30 footballers on the shortlist and their choice will be on individual and collective performances during the year, player class and an overall view of the player’s career. The total points for each player from every journalist, coach and captain are then added together to decide third, second and first place.
Monday 29th November is around the corner. May the best player win!