The 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award was announced on 8th October. Expectedly, the list is dominated by attacking players, with 15 spots on the list occupied by the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski.
Luka Modric, the last midfielder to win the coveted award, has also been nominated, thanks to his consistent performances for Real Madrid this year. The Croatian midfielder did not win any silverware this year, so his chances of making it to the top three are slim.
Performances at club level often play a key role in determining a Ballon d'Or winner. But if there are any major international competitions that year, a player can boost their Ballon d'Or chances if their team reaches the final or wins it.
Messi and Ronaldo have been nominated in the Ballon d'Or 30-man shortlist ever since it was first introduced in 2008. Before 2008, 50 players were shortlisted for the final voting.
Chelsea midfield duo leading candidates for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award
Argentina won the Copa America this year, with Lionel Messi winning the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot as he lifted the maiden international trophy of his career. The record six-time winner is a strong favourite to lift the glistening trophy once again this year.
Italy won EURO 2020, with Jorginho playing a key role in his team's triumph. He recently won the UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award too, so he has a strong case for this year's Ballon d'Or award. His midfield partner, N'Golo Kante, was clutch in the knockout stages of the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League, playing a huge role in Chelsea's triumph.
With the countdown for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award already started, here's a look at the five best midfielders in the 30-man shortlist for this year's Ballon d'Or award:
#5 Bruno Fernandes | Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes took no time to settle at Old Trafford, and has enjoyed a fruitful stint since moving to Manchester United in January 2020. The Portuguese midfielder was the top scorer for the Red Devils across competitions last season, scoring 28 goals.
His goals and assists played a key role in the club finishing second in the Premier League. United also made the final of the Europa League, only to lose to Villarreal on penalties. Fernandes bagged five goals and four assists in the European competition.
A lack of silverware and a disappointing performance at EURO 2020 with Portugal are the reasons why he is at the bottom of this list. That also means the Ballon d'Or award this year will probably elude Fernandes this year.
#4 Nicolo Barella | Inter Milan
Nicolo Barella is a rising star in the Serie A. He enjoyed a breakthrough season in the 2020-21 campaign for both club and county, cementing his place in the starting XI for both Inter Milan and Italy. This impressive form helped him earn a maiden Ballon d'Or nomination.
He bagged a goal and two assists in EURO 2020, and also had a Man-of-the-Match performance in the quarter-final against Belgium. He has kicked off his 2021-22 campaign brightly, bagging five assists and a goal already.
His progress has been incredible. If he continues at the same rate, he could be one of the best players in his position in the next few years, and a strong candidate for the Ballon d'Or award.