Ballon d'Or 2021: Jorginho, Kante, Messi, Lewandowski are top contenders
France Football announced the 30-man shortlist for this year's Ballon d'Or in what could be one of the most competitive editions of the award.
The usual contenders Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski feature on the list this year, but the winner this time is unlikely to be as straightforward as it was in previous years.
Considered to be world football's most prestigious annual award, the Ballon d'Or was not awarded last year after Covid-19 had ravaged the football season.
Lewandowski was the hot favourite to win it after a phenomenal year with Bayern Munich, but missed out on the opportunity to bag his first Ballon d'Or.
He is still a favourite this time for continuing his excellent goal-scoring record, and a lot of journalists are expected to vote for him. But while last year Bayern had won the Champions League, this year, players from current holders Chelsea are the favourites.
Midfielder Jorginho, in particular, is being considered a front-runner having bagged the rare European double of the Champions League with Chelsea and the Euro Cup with Italy.
His Chelsea midfield partner N'Golo Kante is also among the top picks this time, having been named Man of the Match in both semifinal legs and the final of the 2020-21 Champions League.
The current holder of the Golden Ball, Lionel Messi, gets his 15th nomination, and despite his slow start to life at new club Paris St Germain, he will be a contender once again after taking Argentina to Copa America glory.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo (17) has been nominated more times than Messi in the award's history. The Portuguese attacker finds himself on the list but is unlikely to win it this year, having not won any major trophy with club or country.
Other standout performers of the year include Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe, Gianluigi Donnaruma, Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku and Ruben Dias.
With the 30-man shortlist announced by the French magazine, the voting process will involve journalists from around the world, national team coaches and captains. Each of them will be asked to pick their top five.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on November 29.
The 20 nominees of the women's award were also announced with the likes of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Vivianne Miedema the top contenders.
Other awards that France Football announced shortlists for were the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player and the Yashine Trophy for the best goalkeeper.