Copa America success has Messi as a serious candidate now
Season finally now finished, talk has already turned to the Ballon d’Or, with a number of candidates emerging during this summer’s Copa America and European Championship.
But who are the frontrunners as things stand? Take a look at five candidates for the prize.
The out-of-contract Argentine wouldn’t have been a serious contender had he not won the Copa America, but guiding Argentina to their first silverware since 1993 cannot be downplayed.
Messi has achieved immortality now with his country – as he already had with Barcelona – and even with the Catalans he showed some of his very best form in 2021.
The much-maligned midfielder is a double European champion, having won the Champions League with Chelsea and the European Championship with Italy.
Both the Champions League and international competitions tend to go a long way to determining the Ballon d’Or winner, so the former Napoli man probably has as good a case as anybody that he should be named the world’s best for 2021.
Had England won Euro 2020, then Kane might well have been the favourite to take the prize. The Tottenham forward took a while to warm up in the tournament, but he stepped up in the knockout rounds.
The Pole had a European Championship to forget, which will likely count against him, but his Bayern Munich excellence shouldn’t be overlooked.
Lewandowski broke a long-standing Bundesliga record by netting 41 goals in 29 appearances in 2020/21, but still somehow lost out to Erling Haaland as player of the season in Germany.
The Italian defender would be an unlikely winner, but his performances at Euro 2020 are worthy of serious recognition. The veteran defender built a wall alongside Leonardo Bonucci and in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Italy wouldn’t have won the European Championship without him.
No defender has won the prize since Fabio Cannavaro after leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup, and it might be time for that to change now.