- This year's edition of the Ballon d'Or will see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo enter the basket for the award
- The duo has won 11 Ballon d'Ors between them in the last decade, with Messi winning a record six
- The award will be making a return this year after it was cancelled in 2020 due to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic
Following the conclusion of major tournaments from last season, the race for this year's Ballon d'Or award is shaping up.
In 2020, Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski appeared as the favourite to win the prestigious prize, only for him to miss out on it after its cancellation due to COVID-19.
While he is among the favourites once again this year, he will have to contend with competition from several other players who enjoyed a stellar campaign during the 2020/21 season.
Briefly News now takes a look at six football stars who could win the award:
6. Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium and Man City)
Kevin de Bruyne may have suffered an early exit from the Euro 2020 with Belgium, but his performances for Man City have him as a favourite.
The playmaker played a central role in City's impressive campaign that saw them win the Premier League and reach the Champions League final for the first time in the club's history.
The former Chelsea star scored 10 goals and registered 18 assists across competitions, a spectacular run of form that also saw him crowned PFA Player of the Year.
5. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)
Despite having a slow start to the 2020/21 season, Kante was impressive in the final months of the season.
Just before the Euros, it was hard to look beyond the Frenchman in the race for the Ballon d'Or.
Kante was named man of the match in both Champions League semifinal fixtures against Real Madrid and the final of the Blues' glorious triumph over City.
4. Robert Lewandowski (Poland, Bayern)
After his 2020 heartbreak, it is without doubt Lewandowski will be in the run for the award.
The goalscoring phenomenon had a sensational season in the Bundesliga, scoring 48 goals in 40 matches across competitions.
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He went on to inspire Bayern to their ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, but he was unfortunate to be injured in their Champions League quarterfinal defeat against PSG.
His country's poor performance during the Euros notwithstanding, he will be a clear frontrunner for the Ballon d'Or.
3. Jorginho (Italy, Chelsea)
Before the Euros, Jorginho was not a favourite for the award.
Fresh from helping Chelsea win the Champions League, the Italian midfielder went on to help his home country win the continental title against England.
So stunned is about his recent success that Jorginho has already laid claim for the Ballon d'Or.
Italy's Euro triumph meant he is only the 10th football player to win the Champions League and European Championship in the same season - a feat he shares with teammate Emerson.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus, Portugal)
A serial winner of the Ballon d'Or, Ronaldo already boasts five of those after an illustrious football career.
However, with his arch-rival Lionel Messi having six of those, Ronaldo will be desperate to win this year's edition to match that feat.
Despite Juve missing out on the Serie A title, the forward's individual performances were stellar.
The former Real Madrid star scored 29 league goals to win the Italian top-flight league's Golden Boot award.
He also won the Coppa Italia before crowning his brilliant season with another Golden Boot from the Euros.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona)
Lionel Messi is currently the odds favourite to win his seventh Ballon d'Or.
At 34, the forward finally won his first major trophy with Argentina after inspiring them to the Copa America glory.
Incidentally, Messi was crowned the tournament's best player as well as won the Golden Boot award.
All these happened after an underwhelming season with Barcelona that saw the club fail to win the league title.
That notwithstanding, they did win the Copa del Rey, a major title within the Spanish league.
Lionel Messi makes sacrifices to stay at FC Barcelona
Briefly News previously reported that Barcelona can now heave a sigh of relief after Lionel Messi appears to have agreed to take a pay cut before re-joining them on a five-year deal this summer.
The Copa America champion has been without a club since his contract with the Catalans expired in June with some top European outfits already hoping they can sign him for free.
However, the Camp Nou outfit is not leaving anything to chance just to hold on to their legend who has won them a number of silverware since he broke into the first team in 2005.