The Ballon d'Or is the most coveted prize available to an individual in the beautiful game. The prestigious award has been given some of football's greatest exponents over the years and has made a place for itself in conversations surrounding the most talented players to have ever graced the sport.
France Football generally presents the award on a yearly basis but decided against selecting a recipient for the Ballon d'Or in 2020 because of the European football season's disrupted schedule. For 2021, however, the Ballon d'Or is set to return and the race to secure the prize is likely to witness fierce battles for the remainder of the year.
Ballon d'Or race returns to 2021 after year's hiatus
The Ballon d'Or has been largely dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade. The two modern-day legends have maintained a strong duopoly that has only been broken by Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric.
While the two greats remain in contention for football's most coveted prize, several other players have entered the fold with their exceptional performances over the past year. The Ballon d'Or cements a player's place among the legends of the beautiful game and this year's award ceremony may well witness a new recipient.
Neymar was considered Brazil's shining light at a young age and was tipped to become a favourite to win the Ballon d'Or in the prime of his career. The Brazilian winger learnt from the best at Barcelona and wreaked havoc alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Neymar moved on to Ligue 1 and Paris Saint-Germain when he was at his peak and his performances have often slipped under the radar over the past few years. In 2020, however, the former Barcelona superstar rose to the occasion and nearly guided Paris Saint-German to their first UEFA Champions League trophy.
Neymar is unplayable at his best and has always been in contention to win the Ballon d'Or. The talented forward faces intense competition for the award this year, however, and will have to go a step further on the European front to win his first Ballon d'Or.
#4 Kevin De Bruyne
Over the past few years, Kevin De Bruyne has grown into one of the best modern midfielders in the world. The Belgian superstar is one of the most complete players in world football at the moment and offers a combination of tenacity and exceptional creative flair.
Pep Guardiola has built his midfield unit around Kevin De Bruyne and relies on the talented star to pull the strings for his side. De Bruyne has singlehandedly pulled Manchester City across the finish line on several occasions over the past few years and has an outside chance of winning the Ballon d'Or.
The former Chelsea man has not hit the spectacular heights that he is capable of this season but has what it takes to step up to the plate in the coming months. Manchester City are hungry for silverware at the moment and De Bruyne could bring the Ballon d'Or to the Premier League.
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