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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Ballon d’Or: Messi, Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Benzema? Examining the credentials of favorites

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Robert Lewandowski can consider himself abused. The Bayern Munich forward would almost certainly have won his first Ballon d’Or in 2020, only for France Football to decide not to hand over the award due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the most prestigious individual accolade in world football is up for grabs again this year, with the ceremony taking place on Monday.

Lewandowski, who won the FIFA Best Male Player award in 2020 and has had another sensational year for Bayern, is among the favorites in a list of 30 players.

Will it finally be his time, or will old voting habits be difficult to put Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi on pole position? Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses the credentials of Ballon d’Or favorites.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)

Has anyone surpassed Bayern star Lewandowski in 2021? While there was no repeat of the heroic triplets of the 2019-20 campaign, he has been in astonishing form and last season broke Gerd Muller’s 49-year record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, scoring 41 when Die Roten was crowned. champions for the ninth consecutive season.

With 25 to his name in all competitions this period, Lewandowski leads the way for player goals in Europe’s five best leagues, nine above the others. If you take into account the whole year so far this year, Lewandowski has scored 53 times in 41 games, putting him within 16 of closest rivals Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland. Unsurprisingly, his scoring rate, one goal every 65 minutes, is comfortably the best of any player to score 10 or more in 2021.

Lionel Messi (PSG, Argentina)

It has been a momentous year for Messi. He eventually achieved success on the international stage, leading Argentina to a Copa América triumph. After that, he was expected to sign a new contract in Barcelona, ​​but we all know how that turned out. Now at Paris Saint-Germain, the 34-year-old marked his final season in Spain with one final trophy, the 2020-21 Copa del Rey.

In 39 appearances in 2021 with Barça and PSG combined, Messi has 32 goals, nine assists and 81 opportunities created. But it’s Messi’s triumph with Argentina that really puts him in the race for a seventh Ballon d’Or.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, Portugal)

Like Messi, Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, made a big move in 2021, returning to Manchester United after three seasons at Juventus. The 36-year-old has already scored 10 goals in his second spell at Old Trafford. While the team’s struggles are well known, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job after last week’s sad defeat at Watford, Ronaldo’s goal against Villarreal on Tuesday led to 799 career goals for the club and the country, a remarkable feat.

While it hasn’t been the best year at club level for Ronaldo, with Juve losing the Serie A title, though winning the Coppa Italia, he became the record scorer in men’s international soccer, scoring his 110th and 111th goals. in a doublet. against the Republic of Ireland in September to beat Ali Daei (109); the forward is now 115. His agent, Jorge Mendes, told France Football: “All of these achievements, representing the greatest performance in football history, must be critical to the delivery of the trophy, as it continues to show that it is undoubtedly the best world footballer of all time “.

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)

Since Ronaldo left Real Madrid in 2018, Benzema has become the talisman of Los Blancos. Although a LaLiga title eluded Madrid last season, it has been another fantastic year for Benzema. He earned a call-up to France’s roster for Euro 2020 and despite the team’s disappointing campaign, his stellar performances garnered attention, before again excelling in qualifying for the World Cup and League Finals. Nations.

In fact, Benzema’s goal against Finland last week made him the first French player to score in four straight games since he did it himself in five games between November 2013 and June 2014. There is no question that it is. a serious contender for this year’s award.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)

Liverpool star Salah cannot be ignored. Jurgen Klopp has rated the Egyptian striker as the best player in the world and depending on the season so far, it would be difficult to argue too much with that suggestion, as Lewandowski is the only player in Europe’s top five leagues who is directly involved in more goals. . (27) that Salah (24) at this point.

Only four players have exceeded Salah’s 32-goal tally in 2021, although Liverpool’s failure to retain their Premier League crown last season will likely count against the 29-year-old when it comes to this award.

Kylian Mbappé (PSG, France)

While players in their thirties dominate the bookmakers’ favorites list, could this be the year Mbappé steals the crown? The 22-year-old might as well have left PSG in August, but the Ligue 1 giants held firm despite three offers from Madrid, which seem likely to put their man on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Mbappé is forming a formidable front of three with Messi and Neymar, whose own Ballon d’Or hopes seem extremely slim. Mbappé missed the decisive penalty when France escaped from Euro 2020, but his 37 goals in 47 appearances for PSG in all competitions in 2021 tell their own story, while his shot conversion rate of 24.3% is higher. to that of Salah, Benzema, Messi and Ronaldo.

Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)

An outsider for the award, perhaps, but a tipped player nonetheless, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho played a pivotal role in the Blues’ Champions League triumph and then Italy’s success in the Euro. 2020, although he missed a penalty in the final shootout. against England. In fact, he has now missed his last three shots from the spot for Italy, having made each of his first six shots for the Azzurri.

Jorginho has already taken the UEFA Player of the Year award, and it wasn’t long ago that another deep playmaker, Luka Modric, won the Ballon d’Or, even if the competition seems too crowded this time.

N’Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Could Jorginho’s Chelsea midfielder have a scream? Edge continues to dominate the midfields with his boundless energy five years after his title win with Leicester City. He was already an elite player before Thomas Tuchel’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, but he seems to have risen another level since the German coach arrived.

Across all competitions in 2021, Kante boasts a 63.2% tackle success rate and has made 193 recoveries. Released for a box-to-box role in Tuchel’s system, Kante has won 151 of 277 games and recorded an impressive 42 interceptions.

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