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▪︎Five Chelsea stars in race for the accolade

The nominees for the prestigious Ballon d’Or – award for the world’s best footballer have been revealed, with Lionel Messi in the running for a record-extending seventh win while Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski feature.
The award by publication France Football was not given out last year due to the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic – a decision which many felt robbed Bayern Munich and Poland marksman Lewandowski of a maiden accolade.

But the prolific 33-year-old star is among the 30 names revealed by organizers on Friday for this year’s prize, and the Pole is widely considered among the favorites to clinch the gong ahead of the likes of serial winners Messi – who has a record six titles to his name – and Portuguese star Ronaldo, who has scooped five.

Champions League winners, Chelsea had some of their five stars named among the nominees. Midfield dynamo, N’Golo Kante and Italian playmaker Jorginho are also frontrunners.

Jorginho achieved a remarkable double in the summer as he also helped Italy to glory at Euro 2020.

Fellow Italians on the list are Nicola Barella, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Gianluigi Donnarumma.

England are represented by Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling.

Young Norway and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland also makes the cut, as well as Belgian duo Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku of Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

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Other big names include PSG aces Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Liverpool and Egypt winger Mohamed Salah, French Real Madrid forward Kareem Benzema, and Manchester United and Portugal playmaker Bruno Fernandes.

The winner of the 2018 award, Croatia’s Luka Modric, was also included, as was 18-year-old Spain and Barcelona sensation Pedri and veteran Spanish Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.

Portuguese defender Ruben Dias also made the cut alongside Manchester City teammate Riyad Mahrez – meaning a total of five players from the reigning Premier League champions are in the running.

Elsewhere, Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan, Argentina Gerard Moreno of Villarreal and Spain are on the list.

Denmark captain Simon Kjaer – who was famously among the heroes during the harrowing scenes when countryman Christian Eriksen collapsed at Euro 2020 – was also included.

The 2021 award will be handed out at a glitzy ceremony at the Theatre du Chalet in Paris on Monday November 29, when the women’s accolade will also be presented.

This time round there was no room for 2019 women’s winner Megan Rapinoe, who was not among the 20 names vying for the award.

Instead, it will be contested by five players from all-conquering Spanish giants Barcelona, who battered Chelsea in last season’s Champions League final.

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Barca have Alexia Putellas, Sandra Panos, Lieke Martens, Irene Paredes, and Jennifer Hermoso all in the running.

Chelsea are also represented by five stars in the form of Magdalena Eriksson, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Jessie Fleming, and Fran Kirby.

Other names on the list are Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Ashley Lawrence, and Kaddiatou Diani – all from French club PSG.

Stina Blackstenius of Swedish outfit BK Hacken is nominated, as are Wendie Renard and Christiane Endler from Lyon, prolific Dutch scorer Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal, and Manchester City’s Ellen White.

Samantha Mewis of the North Carolina Courage and Christine Sinclair of the Portland Thorns are two of the names to feature who play their club football Stateside.

As for the Yashin gong named after the legendary Soviet shotstopper Lev, there are 10 goalkeepers shortlisted including Donnarumma.

The Premier League is best represented by Ederson (Manchester City), Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) and Copa America winner Emi Martinez (Aston Villa).

La Liga greats Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak from the two big Madrid clubs are also present, as well as ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Keylor Navas now at PSG.

Finally, Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan’s Samir Handanovic round off the pack.

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There are 10 wonderkids under 21 in for the Kopa Trophy, with Pedri one of the favorites joined by English pearls Bukayo Saka, Mason Greenwood and Jude Bellingham.

Jamal Musiala is already a regular starter for Bayern Munich and competes with Giovanni Reyna and Florian Wirtz in the Bundesliga.

While Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch is the only Eredivise entry, Jeremy Doku and Nuno Mendes represent Ligue 1.

Reaction to the nominations has already started to flood social media.

As usual, Ronaldo and Messi worshippers split hairs over who should take home the prestigious accolade, but some admitted that perhaps Lewandowski deserves it more.

“I’m a Messi fan, and Lewa should get it,” said one. “It’s not even up for debate.”

“The fact is Lewandowski will win… but I’ll root for Jorginho,” confessed another, supporting the Chelsea ace.

“Apart from them, if anyone else wins the Ballon d’Or will lose its credibility.”

“If you say that Messi wins you have serious problems in your head,” one Ronaldo fan account balked.

“I’m not saying that Ronaldo deserves it more, but Messi can’t score a goal in a farmers league and Portugal’s group [at Euro 2020] was heavier than [Argentina’s] at the Copa America.”


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