With the 30-man shortlist of this year's Ballon d'Or officially announced, the world will finally get to witness an awardee after two long years. The prestigious 'Golden Ball' ceremony, usually held on an annual basis, was scrapped last year due to the sudden breakout of the ongoing pandemic.
However, with football gradually returning to its former glory and fans getting a chance to spectate some awe-inspiring competitions, the Ballon d'Or will be making a much-awaited return this year.
Some familiar names appear on the final Ballon d'Or shortlist
While some will be making their debut at the Ballon d'Or ceremony on 29th November 2021, few usual suspects will also be seen at the said event. Put together by France Football, the extravagant gala is usually held at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, with the 2021 edition being no exception. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, despite being well into their 30s, are yet again nominated for the award.
While the Argentine is considered to be the bookies' favorite to take the Ballon d'Or home for the seventh time, multiple nominees can give Messi a run for his money. Robert Lewandowski could be a potential party-spoiler for the 34-year-old, with the Polish striker amassing some crazy numbers in the past season. Chelsea duo Jorginho and N'Golo Kante have also been thrust into the conversation as potential competitors for this year's Ballon d'Or.
With several major international tournaments conducted this year, a hoard of new names have also come forward in the Ballon d'Or discussion. On that note, let's take a look at the five best newcomers on the Ballon d'Or shortlist this year:
#5 Pedri (Barcelona)
Pedri has taken the whole footballing world by storm in the past year. Having played for minnows Las Palmas in the second tier of Spanish football as recently as September 2020, the youngster has shot to super-stardom in no time.
In honor of his heroics in the 2020-21 season, Pedri has been included in the preliminary 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or. Considering his superior achievements at the tender age of 18, the Spaniard thoroughly deserves every bit of praise that falls on his doorstep. Pedri was a standout player in an otherwise average Barcelona squad, dazzling the audience with his astounding technical skills.
On top of that, the talented youngster was essential to Spain's impressive run to the semi-finals at Euro 2020, playing all but one minute at the tournament. Although it is a far-fetched notion to consider him an actual candidate for the Ballon d'Or this year, Pedri has plenty of time to win the acclaimed award one day.
#4 Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
On January 1st, 2018, Liverpool announced the signing of Virgil van Dijk for €84.65 million. The former Southampton centre-back went on to solidify the Reds' leaky defense, guiding them to a Premier League win and a Champions League title in two years. On September 29, 2020, Manchester City did something similar by signing a 23-year-old Ruben Dias for €68 million.
Since then, the young Portuguese has transformed Pep Guardiola's side into the dominant powerhouse that we know. He single-handedly fixed City's unreliable backline, bringing some much-needed stability. Rarely do signings as inexperienced and young as Dias have an immediate impact on the teams they are joining.
Nevertheless, the sturdy defender did just that, even winning the Premier League player of the season award in his debut campaign. While City failed to secure their first-ever Champions League title, they did manage to win the Premier League by a landslide last season. And Dias' involvement was a major reason behind their success. With a string of dominating performances, the youngster deservedly walks onto his maiden 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist.