#1 – Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
In 2021: 41 goals, 17 assists. Won Copa America & Copa del Rey.
Actual ranking: 1st
Ballon d’Or number seven is now Lionel Messi’s, even if his relatively slow start to life at Paris Saint-Germain saw the chasing pack close the gap considerably over the past three months.
The GOAL50 winner almost single-handedly dragged Barcelona to what would have been an unlikely La Liga title if they had got over the line during the opening months of 2021, before winning Player of the Tournament and the Golden Boot at the Copa America as the Argentine finally claimed his first major international trophy.
His goal record might not match that of Lewandowski’s, but Ballon d’Or voters do have a magpie-like nature to them, and enjoy the sight of players lifting silverware.
For that reason, Messi just had the edge in one of the closest fights for years.
#2 – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
In 2021: 64 goals, 10 assists. Won Bundesliga, Club World Cup & DFL-Supercup.
Actual ranking: 2nd
There is no doubt that Robert Lewandowski would have won the Ballon d’Or in 2020 had it not been controversially cancelled by France Football.
There is even a school of though that believes him carrying that form through into 2021 should have meant he was an automatic selection to claim this year’s prize.
The Bayern Munich star could certainly not have done any more to force himself into the reckoning, and despite his second-placed ranking here, it would not have been a surprise to see him on stage collecting the most coveted individual award in the sport on November 29.
It was a tight race this year, but one man had – in GOAL’s opinion – the slight edge…
#3 – Jorginho (Chelsea)
In 2021: Nine goals, three assists. Won Euro 2020, Champions League & UEFA Super Cup.
Actual ranking: 3rd
Rightly or wrongly, Jorginho headed into the Ballon d’Or ceremony as one of the favourites for the award after a year in which he did the Champions League-European Championship double.
Voted UEFA Player of the Year off the back of that achievement, it would be fair to point out that the Chelsea star did play well both club and country as they won that silverware, even if he was not the standout for either.
It is for the latter reason, though, that he came up just short in this race.