Ballon d’Or 2021 contenders (Part I)

Ballon d’Or has been one of the highest, if not the highest individual honors in football for as long as we can remember. The latest edition of Ballon d’Or is just around the corner. So, let’s look at the prime contenders to claim the gong this edition and make a valid case for each.

Note: The players mentioned below are in no particular order.

Messi lifting Copa America Trophy after winning the final against Brazil. Image source: AFP

Lionel Messi

Well, Messi featuring in the Ballon d’Or contenders is quite a surprise, isn’t it? – given the fact that he has already claimed it six times. In 2021, Lionel Messi has bagged 41 goals and 14 assists so far. What makes his case strong is the fact that he won Copa America and he played an incredibly significant role in that – winning the golden boot and being the player of the tournament, making him one of the best contenders for the trophy.

Mbappe celebrating his goal. Image Source: Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe

Kylian will be a regular feature in the discussion for Ballon d’Or for many more years to come. Mbappe has scored 45 goals and 22 assists so far in 2021 playing a key role in helping France win the Nations League. What works in his favor is that his numbers of late have been even more compelling than they already are, and hence the recency effect can play its part.

Jorginho with Euro Cup Image source: Getty Images

Jorge Luiz Frello Filho (Jorginho)

It is rare for a holding midfielder to feature in the prime contenders’ discussion, let alone win the same. But the midfield metronome is here for more than just that. He has been an important cog in the wheel, controlling the tempo of the game, making important interceptions, tackles, ball recoveries, and passes. He was at his best helping Chelsea win the Champions League. Then, he won Euro 2020 with Italy. Given the history of how silverware plays a vital role in deciding the winner’s fate, Jorginho is here with more than just a sniff. He indeed is a top contender for the honors.

Lewa scored 41 goals in 2020/21 Bundesliga to surpass Gerd Müller’s 49-year-old best-mark of 40. Image source: Getty Images

Robert Lewandowski

Scoring goals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Robert Lewandowski has broken records left, right, and center just for fun. Many believed him to have been the outright winner for the previous Ballon d’Or, only for it to be scrapped altogether. Without even considering the heroics of last season, he makes a strong claim on the gong. He has scored 64 goals and assisted 10 to help his side win Bundesliga and Club World Cup. He had a stellar Champions League season cut short by an injury that saw his side bow out in the quarter-finals. Like in previous seasons, he is an excellent contender this term.

Salah celebrating yet another goal this season Image source: Reuters

Mohamed Salah

It is no surprise that Salah is arguably the best player in the world on form features in the contention to claim the award. Having scored 34 goals and assisted 11 times, the numbers may not be as compelling as his recent form, but the context is as important. Even though Liverpool was marred by injuries, he ensured that Liverpool remained in the top 4 to give them chance to go all the way in the Champions League this season.

To be continued…