The Ballon d’Or has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past 12 years, but Luka Modric was able to break their decade-long dominance in 2018 when he helped Real Madrid win the La Liga and Champions League double and led Croatia to their maiden World Cup final, where they were runners-up to France.
Messi was able to secure a record sixth Ballon d’Or last year, but it was predicted that Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski would win the prize for 2020 before France Football cancelled the annual ceremony owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski will be among the 2021 Ballon d’Or candidates alongside Messi and Ronaldo, but there are plenty of other high-profile players, who could be in the running for the prestigious acccolade.
Jean-Pierre Papin is the only player from the French Ligue 1 to have won the award way back in 1991 and it remains to be seen whether the long-standing record can be broken next year.
2021 Ballon d’Or contenders from Ligue 1:
Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain:
Mbappe is widely regarded as the poster boy of France football and his reputation peaked during the 2018 World Cup, where he was named the best Young Player after netting four goals, the last of which came in Les Bleus’ 4-2 final triumph over Croatia.
At club level, the 21-year-old has already netted 99 goals from 133 games for Paris Saint-Germain and he has won eight major trophies. He was one of the standout performers for Les Parisiens in Europe last term, but they could not cross the final hurdle after 1-0 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.
Mbappe’s start to the current season has been disrupted due to contracting the coronavirus as well as a hamstring injury, but he has still been in fine form with nine goals from as many outings.
Les Parisiens are currently facing a tough task of getting out of their Champions League group ahead of Manchester United and RB Leipzig, and their failure to do would undoubtedly dent Mbappe’s prospects of winning the Ballon d’Or.
In that case, Mbappe’s chances of claiming the individual prize may largely depend on whether he can play a leading role for Les Bleus next summer and help them lift the Euro 2020 title for the first time since 2000.
The country also have the Nations League finals to look forward to in October next year and winning the continental competition would provide an added incentive for Mbappe to win the Ballon d’Or.
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain:
Neymar was once regarded as the main rival to Messi and Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or, but he has not been able to go higher than third. He was previously on the podium during the 2017 ceremony.
The Brazil international obviously made the move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 to come out of Messi’s shadows and stand out as the leader of the attack with the French giants.
However, he has been unable to stamp his authority with Les Parisiens, primarily due to the competition from Mbappe while injuries have also hampered his progress.
He was able to play his part in the club’s run to the Champions League final last term, but was not at his vintage best as he was guilty of squandering multiple clear-cut chances on goal.
At the international stage, Neymar has yet to shine in the latter stages of any tournament and he was unlucky last year where got injured right before the Copa America which the Selecao won.
The same has been the case this term where he has just recovered from an adductor injury and the 28-year-old needs a huge year ahead to make a strong push for the Ballon d’Or trophy.
A stunning turnaround in Europe to win the Champions League title would hugely enhance Neymar’s Ballon d’Or credentials. He can as well improve his chances by helping Brazil defend their Copa America crown next summer.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com