Copa America 2021 is about to start in a few days' time, with defending champions Brazil set to host the tournament. After the original edition of the tournament in 2020 had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two co-hosts, Colombia (civil unrest) and Argentina (COVID-19 concerns), have been replaced by Brazil.
Some of the finest players in the game will grace Copa America 2021, including Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, to name a few. The trio, along with a few others, will look to be in the mix for the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament's best player.
On that note, let's take a look at the top five contenders for the Golden Ball at Copa America 2021.
#5 Federico Valverde (Uruguay)
With Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in their 30s, the emergence of Federico Valverde could not have come at a more opportune time for Real Madrid.
The 22-year old, who has impressed with his performances in midfield for Los Blancos, has racked up 23 caps for Uruguay, who are one of the contenders at Copa America 2021. Barring injury, Valverde is likely to start for the record 15-time Copa America champions at the tournament.
Valverde is coming off a stop-start 2020-21 campaign, making only 15 La Liga starts, partly due to injury issues and the excellent form of the evergreen duo of Kroos and Modric. So the former Penarol man, who scored three league goals, will be keen to get some minutes under his belt at Copa America 2021.
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#4 Angel Di Maria (Argentina)
Angel Di Maria has been a part of the Argentina setup for quite some time. Given his quality and consistent performances, it is clear why he is rated highly by many.
Critics tend to remember Di Maria's catastrophic Manchester United spell. But the 33-year old has had excellent stints at Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain either side of his Old Trafford sojourn.
Di Maria has been capped 105 times by Argentina, and his creativity, passing and goalscoring ability could come in handy for the 14-time champions at Copa America 2021.
In the recently-concluded 2020-21 campaign, Angel Di Maria made 23 Ligue 1 starts, scoring four goals and providing nine assists.
The former Benfica man is capable of playing anywhere across the forward line. His understanding with Lionel Messi could be crucial to Argentina's hopes of ending their long trophy drought at Copa America 2021.