Lionel Messi led Argentina to the Copa America; he was the best player at the tournament and provided more goals and assists than anyone else. He didn’t dazzle with Barcelona this season, despite winning the Copa del Rey and the Pichichi, but still looks a good bet to win the Ballon d’Or according to Mundo Deportivo.
N’golo Kante could be a rival. He was key to Chelsea as they won the Champions League, knocking Real Madrid out in the semi-final. The Frenchman was man-of-the-match in the final against Manchester City, but could be hamstrung by France’s poor performance at Euro 2020; they were knocked out by Switzerland in the last 16 despite entering the tournament as favourites.
Jorginho, Kante’s partner in Chelsea’s midfield, has also been mentioned. He enjoyed a sensational year, winning both the Champions League with his club and Euro 2020 with Italy; the Brazilian-born playmaker was key to Roberto Mancini’s machine, converting the penalty that knocked Spain out in the semi-final.
There are several other contenders. Kylian Mbappe, of Paris Saint-Germain and France, is on the list, as is Bayern Munich and Poland marksman Robert Lewandowski; the latter would have won the award in 2020 if FIFA didn’t scrap it for dubious reasons. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pedri, Kevin de Bruyne and even Federico Chiesa have also been floated as outsiders, as have Neymar, Karim Benzema and Harry Kane.