Football News

Ballon d’Or 2021 shortlist: Favourites ranked

By Chris Smith

Published: 12:00, 9 October 2021

France Football has revealed the 30-man shortlist for their annual Ballon d’Or prize.

The brainchild of sports writer Gabriel Hanot, this prestigious award which honours those who have performed exceptionally well across the past 12 months has been given out every year between 1956 and 2019 — but was cancelled in 2020 — with Sir Stanley Matthews taking home the inaugural ‘golden ball’.

For several weeks now, there’s been a lot of talk about who’ll succeed 2019 winner Messi, who is chasing a record-extending seventh title. Below are the 2021 contenders ranked by their odds of winning.

Ballon d’Or 2021 nominees:

Mason Mount – 100/1

Club: Chelsea
Nation: England
Position: 
Attacking midfield/wing

Though he was by no means the key man in either side, Mason Mount played a big role in Chelsea’s Champions League success and England’s run to the Euro 2020 final over the summer. Mount’s work rate and set-piece expertise really set him apart.

Gerard Moreno – 100/1

Club: Villarreal
Nation: Spain
Position:
Striker

Gerard Moreno was absolutely phenomenal for Villarreal last season, scoring 30 goals and setting up another 10 in league and continental play as the Yellow Submarine won the Europa League and finished seventh in La Liga. Though he grabbed two assists, he was unable to score at Euro 2020.

Riyad Mahrez – 66/1

Club: Manchester City
Nation: Algeria
Position: 
Winger

Riyad Mahrez is a rotational piece for Pep Guardiola, but he still managed nine goals and six assists in 23 Premier League starts for Man City last season, as well as four and two in the Champions League to help his side to the final. The former Leicester City man has also scored four goals in five caps for Algeria since the turn of the year.

Phil Foden – 66/1

Club: Manchester City
Nation: England
Position: 
Attacking midfield

After a couple of years on the fringes, Phil Foden finally established himself as a key player for Guardiola last season, starting 17 Premier League games and 12 in the Champions League. 12 goals and eight assists across those two competitions combined is a healthy return. The 21-year-old only played a bit-part role in England’s run to the European Championship final, but caught the imagination with his Paul Gascoigne-inspired haircut.

Nicolo Barella – 66/1

Club: Inter Milan
Nation: Italy
Position: 
Central midfield

Nicolo Barella was the beating heart of the midfield as Inter finally ended Juventus’ nine-year reign of terror in Serie A last season, while he started six games as Italy went all the way at Euro 2020. The 24-year-old has opened the new league campaign with a goal and five assists in seven games — a clear indication of his importance to the Nerazzurri.

Luka Modric – 66/1

Club: Real Madrid
Nation: Croatia
Position: 
Central midfield

He may be 36 years old, but Luka Modric is still capable of some mesmeric midfield performances and he was particularly impressive for Croatia at Euro 2020 — a quiet showing against England aside. That stunning goal against Scotland will live long in the memory.

Luis Suarez – 66/1

Club: Atletico Madrid
Nation: Uruguay
Position: 
Striker

Barcelona allowed Luis Suarez to leave for basically nothing, to their La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid no less. The veteran striker then went on to score 21 goals to fire Diego Simeone’s men to the title. There’s life in the old dog, yet.

Leonardo Bonucci – 66/1

Club: Juventus
Nation: Italy
Position: 
Centre-back

Juventus were subdued last season, but Leonardo Bonucci really shone at Euro 2020 with some imperious defensive performances and precision passing. It was his goal that pulled Italy level in the final against England with just 23 minutes remaining.

Lautaro Martinez – 66/1

Club: Inter Milan
Nation: Argentina
Position: 
Striker

Romelu Lukaku’s partner in crime in Inter’s title-winning side, Lautaro Martinez also bagged two goals as Argentina lifted Copa America over the summer, rounding off a good year for the striker.

Karim Benzema – 66/1

Club: Real Madrid
Nation: France
Position: 
Striker

Karim Benzema made his long-awaited return to international football and scored four goals at the Euros, despite France crashing out in the round-of-16. That’s been the story of the year for Benzema, who has carried a limping Real Madrid side at times.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 66/1

Club: Chelsea
Nation: Spain
Position:
Full-back/centre-back

The captain of Chelsea’s Champions League-winning side and a huge presence in Spain’s run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Cesar Azpilicueta has continued to defy Father Time.

Ruben Dias – 50/1

Club: Manchester City
Nation: Portugal
Position: 
Centre-back

Ruben Dias was arguably the best centre-back in the Premier League last season, the only criticism being the relative lack of defending he has to do for Man City. Still, he does more than his fair share with the ball at his feet, too.

Raheem Sterling – 50/1

Club: Manchester City
Nation: England
Position:
Forward

Raheem Sterling was very much in and out of the Man City starting XI last year and that remains the case this season. But he was crucial to England’s run at Euro 2020, netting three goals in his opening four appearances and carrying the Three Lions’ attack until Harry Kane found his mojo.

Pedri – 50/1

Club: Barcelona
Nation: Spain
Position: 
Central midfield

At just 18, Pedri has played a phenomenal amount of football over the past year and is already a key part of both Barcelona and Spain’s midfield, orchestrating play. He won’t win the Ballon d’Or this year, but will absolutely be a contender for future editions.

Neymar – 50/1

Club: PSG
Nation: Brazil
Position: 
Forward

It’s been a year of what-ifs for Neymar, whose 2020/21 campaign was ruined by injury. Had to settle for second-best in Ligue 1 with PSG and at Copa America with Brazil.

Mohamed Salah – 50/1

Club: Liverpool
Nation: Egypt
Position: 
Forward

Just another 31 goals across all competitions last season for Mohamed Salah, who has also started the new campaign on fire with nine goals and three assists in nine appearances across Premier League and Champions League play combined. 50/1 is a ridiculously high price for the Egyptian forward. If he keeps up his current form, he should move up the rankings very quickly while also making an early bid for next year’s award.

Giorgio Chiellini – 50/1

Club: Juventus
Nation: Italy
Position: 
Centre-back

Like Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini endured a subdued season at club level with Juventus. But at Euro 2020, he put absolutely everything on the line to ensure Roberto Mancini’s men emerged victorious. The captain was a true inspiration to his teammates and fans.

Bruno Fernandes – 50/1

Club: Manchester United
Nation: Portugal
Position: 
Attacking midfield

He may be accused of ‘stat-padding’, but Man Utd would be nowhere near their current level without Bruno Fernandes. The main blight on his year has been a relative failure to turn up at international level for Portugal.

Simon Kjaer – 33/1

Club: AC Milan
Nation: Denmark
Position:
 Centre-back

Simon Kjaer was absolutely key to AC Milan’s title challenge last season and though they didn’t win it, they have re-established themselves among Europe’s elite. Of course, the defender was also widely and rightly commended for his quick thinking as Christian Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

Harry Kane – 33/1

Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Nation: England
Position: 
Striker

It took him a while to get going, but Harry Kane exploded in the Euro 2020 knockout rounds for England, scoring four goals between the round-of-16 and semi-finals. And that came after topping both goalscoring and assist charts in the Premier League last season. Kane is yet to score in the Premier League this season but has been on fire for England and in the Europa Conference League.

Gianluigi Donnarumma – 33/1

Club: PSG
Nation: Italy
Position: 
Goalkeeper

Like Kjaer, Gianluigi Donnarumma was instrumental to AC Milan’s superb 2020/21 season, while he was named Player of the Tournament for his exploits in helping Italy win Euro 2020. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, though, and Donnarumma is now battling to be PSG’s undisputed No.1.

Erling Haaland – 33/1

Club: Borussia Dortmund
Nation: Norway
Position: Striker

What more is left unsaid about Erling Haaland? The 21-year-old is an absolute goal machine and although he won’t win the Ballon d’Or this year, it’s not hard to imagine him emulating the sort of success Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have enjoyed with this award.

Romelu Lukaku – 25/1

Club: Chelsea
Nation: Belgium
Position: 
Striker

Romelu Lukaku has been one of the most lethal strikers on the planet over the past 12 months, scoring a bucket load of goals as Inter Milan lifted the Serie A title. At international level, he’s already Belgium’s record goalscorer and has found the net 11 times in 12 caps this year alone. Lukaku has made a solid start upon his return to Chelsea with three goals in six Premier League games.

Kylian Mbappe – 25/1

Club: PSG
Nation: France
Position: 
Forward

PSG’s failure in Ligue 1 and the Champions League didn’t stop Kylian Mbappe last season, with the youngster netting a phenomenal 42 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions. He’s been quiet at international level, though, with just two goals in 11 caps this year while he missed the crucial penalty as France crashed out of Euro 2020 against Switzerland. He ended the competition without a goal.

Kevin De Bruyne – 20/1

Club: Manchester City
Nation: Belgium
Position: 
Attacking midfield

Manchester City are Premier League champions again, and Kevin De Bruyne’s six goals and 12 assists certainly helped deliver that crown. The Belgian playmaker has once again been disrupted by injury but, when available, exerts incredible creative influence over his club and country.

N’Golo Kante – 16/1

Club: Chelsea
Nation: France
Position: 
Central midfield

It’s been widely accepted for a number of years that N’Golo Kante is the best midfielder in the world and little has happened to change that opinion over the past 12 months with the Frenchman playing a key role in Chelsea’s Champions League success.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 12/1

Club: Manchester United
Nation: Portugal
Position: 
Forward

A European Championship Golden Boot and a glorious return to Manchester United pretty much sums up the success Cristiano Ronaldo has enjoyed over the last year. The 36-year-old scored 36 goals across all competitions for Juventus last season, despite the Old Lady being absolutely terrible.

Jorginho – 5/1

Club: Chelsea
Nation: Italy
Position: 
Central midfield

If there’s one midfielder who has been able to challenge Kante over the last year, it’s his Chelsea teammate Jorginho, who pulled the strings for Italy at Euro 2020 and looks incapable of feeling pressure with the ball at his feet. Jorginho is the outside bet to win this season’s award and though it would be a shock if he did, it’s nice to see a player of his ilk get recognition.

Robert Lewandowski – 5/1

Club: Bayern Munich
Nation: Poland
Position: 
Striker

Perhaps the one mark against Robert Lewandowski is the fact he plays for a national team in Poland that just cannot match his supreme talent. The 33-year-old absolutely obliterated Gerd Muller’s long-standing Bundesliga goalscoring record, finding the net 41 times last season… in just 29 appearances!

Lionel Messi – 1/3

Club: Barcelona
Nation: Argentina
Position: 
Forward

Nobody needs any proof of Lionel Messi’s talent but the fact he was able to register 35 goals and 14 assists in 41 La Liga and Champions League appearances last season for a frankly awful Barcelona side would serve as a good example anyway.

The 34-year-old finally broke his international silverware duck this summer, too, putting in a Golden Boot-winning performance as Argentina won Copa America.

There’s a good argument to say Lewandowski deserves it this year, but there is a certain romance to Messi finally tasting success with his country that’s hard to overlook.