The 2021 Ballon d’Or battle is one of the closer competitions in recent memory, with a number of players making a solid case to win the award.
Robert Lewandowski was among the frontrunners for the 2020 award before it was cancelled, and the Pole has continued to score for fun since leading Bayern Munich to domestic glory last season.
Mohamed Salah is playing some of the best football of his career at Liverpool, terrifying Premier League defences on a near-weekly basis while Chelsea midfielder Jorginho is a contender after winning the Champions League and European Championships.
And then, of course, there’s Lionel Messi : a man whose individual brilliance means he can never be written off, and who finally ended his long wait for international glory in 2021.
Should Messi win the Ballon d’Or? Have your say in the comments section
AFP via Getty Images)
In addition to scoring more than 30 goals for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, Messi led Argentina to Copa America glory over the summer and finished the tournament as joint-top scorer.
It was the 34-year-old’s first international trophy after a number of near misses, including defeats in continental and World Cup finals.
And pundits Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher both kept the international achievement at the forefront of their minds when discussing the PSG forward’s chances, as they were asked to make their predictions for who will take home football’s biggest individual prize later this month.
“Leo Messi will, I think [win it] because of finally winning the Copa America with Argentina,” Henry told CBS Sports Golazo.
Carragher was not quite as convinced, saying “I think Lewandowski will win it, I think he deserves to win it” but admitting international tournament victories can play a part in deciding the winner.
“I would pick Lewandowski, but I think Messi may just do it because people will feel he’s finally done something for Argentina.”
Fellow pundit Alex Scott backed Lewandowski for the award, suggesting 2021 could be the Bayern Munich player’s “last chance” after missing out when the Ballon d’Or was not given out in 2020.
Lewandowski has already scored 30 goals for club and country this season, after finding the net more than 50 times during the 2020-21 season.
However, despite winning the Bundesliga, the striker fell short of Champions League glory after suffering an untimely injury during Bayern’s attempted defence of the title they won in 2020.
The most recent Ballon d’Or award went the way of Messi in 2019, with the then-Barcelona forward pipping Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to glory and Cristiano Ronaldo finishing third.
Another win for Messi in 2021 would be a seventh for the Argentine, who already holds the record for winning the individual award the most times.
The 2021 Ballon d’Or will be awarded in France on November 29.