Who wears the crown?

•Muller, Nagelsmann tip Lewandowski
•Henry, Zidane back Benzema
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 (today), 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.

Messi has however stated that winning the award (his seventh) will be crazy, “If the Ballon d’Or were to arrive, it would be extraordinary for what it would mean to win one more. The seventh would be crazy.”

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.

Lewandowski has been backed by teammate Thomas Muller and coach Julian Nagelsmann.

“’Lewy’ has to win the thing on Monday when you see the way he is playing at the moment,” Mueller said of a player who has already scored 25 times in 20 appearances this season.

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“Robert deserves to win it, because in my view he has been more unbelievably consistent than any other player,” Nagelsmann said last month in an interview with Munich newspaper Abendzeitung.

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 14 in 16 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.

Benzema has received support from Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and tennis star Rafael Nadal following a tremendous year with Real Madrid.


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 16 goals in 16 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.