Football News

Lionel Messi wins the 2021 Ballon d’Or: How the football world reacted

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:19, 29 November 2021

Lionel Messi has increased his dominance of the Ballon d’Or, winning the award for a record seventh time.

The Argentinian superstar was among the favourites to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or but there were still doubts as Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, in particular, had a year to remember on a personal level. Despite Barcelona’s troubles last season, Messi ended the 2020/21 La Liga campaign with 30 goals, nine assists, 77 chances created, 22 Big Chances created and 159 take-ons completed, all league-highs with the exception of the assists.

All that alone may have been enough to secure him the award, but Messi also stood up and was counted where it mattered in the year, finally winning Copa America with Argentina. Messi was once again the star of the show at the tournament, winning the Golden Boot with four goals, providing five assists and also being named Player of the Tournament.

Not only did the win end Messi’s wait for a senior trophy with his national team, but it also ended Argentina’s 28-year trophy drought since previously winning the Copa America in 1993. That drought had also included four Copa America runners-up medals and one at the 2014 World Cup when Mario Gotze’s injury-time winner gave Germany the crown.

Messi edged out Lewandowski, who finished second, having broken the late Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 goals in a single German top-flight campaign, netting 41 in the 2020/21 Bundesliga. Lewandowski did, however, pick up a new award as the Striker of the Year, the least he deserved for scoring 49 times in 37 league and Champions League games in 2021, 16 more than any other player.

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Jorginho completed the top three, rewarded for his roles in Chelsea winning the Champions League and Italy’s success at Euro 2020. The midfielder started six of Chelsea’s seven knockout matches en route to the European Cup and played in every game for Italy, missing just 15 minutes in the final group stage game with the route to the knockouts already secured. There was a consolation for Jorginho, however, as Chelsea were named the first Club of the Year as both their men and women’s side reached the Champions League final – the first club to have teams in both men’s and women’s finals in the same season.

Despite many believing Messi to be the best footballer to ever play, there was mixed reaction to his seventh Ballon d’Or win (which moved him two clear of Cristiano Ronaldo). As the awards were announced, the term ‘Robbery’ was trending on Twitter, with some fighting Lewandowski’s case for winning the Ballon d’Or.

However, Messi also received the praise he did deserve for his accomplishment and standing in the game…

Translation: “Congratulations Leo! There is no doubt, you are the best.”

Full 2021 Ballon d’Or ranking:

  • 1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona/PSG/Argentina)
  • 2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)
  • 3. Jorginho (Chelsea/Italy)
  • 4. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/France)
  • 5. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea/France)
  • 6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Man Utd/Portugal)
  • 7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)
  • 8. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City/Belgium)
  • 9. Kylian Mbappe (PSG/France)
  • 10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan/PSG/Italy)
  • 11. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund/Norway)
  • 12. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan/Chelsea/Belgium)
  • 13. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus/Italy)
  • 14. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus/Italy)
  • 15. Raheem Sterling (Man City/England)
  • 16. Neymar (PSG/Brazil)
  • 17. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid/Uruguay)
  • 18. Simon Kjaer (AC Milan/Denmark)
  • 19. Mason Mount (Chelsea/England)
  • 20. Riyad Mahrez (Man City/Algeria)
  • 21=. Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd/Portugal)
  • 21=. Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan/Argentina)
  • 23. Harry Kane (Tottenham/England)
  • 24. Pedri (Barcelona/Spain)
  • 25. Phil Foden (Man City/England)
  • 26=. Gerard Moreno (Villarreal/Spain)
  • 26=. Ruben Dias (Man City/Portugal)
  • 26=. Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan/Italy)
  • 29=. Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia)
  • 29=. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea/Spain)

Alexia Putellas wins Ballon d’Or Feminin

There weren’t too many awards on the night that were more sewn up before the winner was officially announced than Alexia Putellas winning the Ballon d’Or Feminin. The Spaniard had a sensational season for Barcelona, helping them win the Treble of the Copa de la Reina, Primera Division and Champions League – the latter for the first time in the club’s history. Across 2021 for club and country, Putellas scored 39 goals in 57 appearances, placing her ahead of compatriot and team-mate Jenni Hermoso in second place and third-placed Sam Kerr of Chelsea.

  • 1. Alexia Putellas (Barcelona/Spain)
  • 2. Jenni Hermoso (Barcelona/Spain)
  • 3. Sam Kerr (Chelsea/Australia)
  • 4. Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal/Netherlands)
  • 5. Lieke Martens (Barcelona/Netherlands)
  • 6. Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns/Canada)
  • 7. Pernille Harder (Chelsea/Denmark)
  • 8. Ashley Lawrence (PSG/Canada)
  • 9. Jessie Fleming (Chelsea/Canada)
  • 10. Fran Kirby (Chelsea/England)
  • 11. Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea/Sweden)
  • 12. Christiane Endler (PSG/Lyon/Chile)
  • 13. Stina Blackstenius (BK Hacken/Sweden)
  • 14. Sam Mewis (Man City/North Carolina Courage/USA)
  • 15. Irene Paredes (PSG/Barcelona/Spain)
  • 16. Ellen White (Man City/England)
  • 17. Kadidiatou Diani (PSG/France)
  • 18. Marie-Antoinette Katoto (PSG/France)
  • 19. Sandra Panos (Barcelona/Spain)
  • 20. Wendie Renard (Lyon/France)

Pedri wins Kopa Trophy

The first award of the night saw Pedri crowned as the best young player yet again, adding the Kopa Trophy to his Golden Boy award earlier this month. The Spaniard had a fantastic 12 months for club and country, playing 71 games during the 2020/21 season alone, while being named in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament and helping Spain win silver at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  As with the Golden Boy, Pedri finished ahead of England midfielder Jude Bellingham and Germany’s Jamal Musiala in second and third respectively.

  • 1. Pedri (Barcelona/Spain)
  • 2. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund/England)
  • 3. Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich/Germany)
  • 4. Nuno Mendes (PSG/Portugal)
  • 5. Mason Greenwood (Man Utd/England)
  • 6. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal/England)
  • 7. Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen/Germany)
  • 8. Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax/Netherlands)
  • 9.= Jeremy Doku (Rennes/Belgium)
  • 9=. Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/USA)

Gianluigi Donnarumma Wins Yashin Trophy

International football plays a massive part in these awards, just as Zinedine Zidane (1998) or Luka Modric (2018) who both won the Ballon d’Or for their national team performances. The same can be said for Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was awarded the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper, having also cracked the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or. Donnarumma was his usual dominant self for AC Milan last season but sealed the trophy with his outstanding performance in helping Italy win Euro 2020, which included saving two penalties in the shootout win over England in the final at Wembley. The Italian finished ahead of Champions League winner Edouard Mendy in second place and La Liga champion Jan Oblak in third.

  • 1. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan/PSG/Italy)
  • 2. Edouard Mendy (Chelsea/Senegal)
  • 3. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid/Slovenia)
  • 4. Ederson (Man City/Brazil)
  • 5. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany)
  • 6. Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa/Argentina)
  • 7. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester/Denmark)
  • 8=. Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid/Belgium)
  • 8=. Keylor Navas (PSG/Costa Rica)
  • 10. Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan/Slovenia)