Messi, 34, held off the challenge of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Chelsea’s Jorginho to collect the prize and move two clear in his long-running battle with five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who was among the 30 players shortlisted but did not feature in the top three for the first time in 11 years.
Messi was the favourite to collect the award after winning the Copa America with Argentina earlier this year – his first major international trophy – despite one of his less impressive periods at club level: Barcelona finished third in La Liga and fell in the first knockout round of the Champions League. However, Messi scored two goals as Barca won the Copa del Rey final and he was La Liga’s top goalscorer once more, before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
Lewandowski did pick up the consolation prize of the newly formed Striker of the Year award, while the Women’s Ballon d’Or went to Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas.
Further awards went to Gianluigi Donnarumma for the Yashin Trophy of best goalkeeper, to Barcelona midfielder Pedri as the starlet was handed the Kopa Trophy and another new award went to Chelsea for Club of the Year for their on-pitch achievements with both men’s and women’s teams. You can follow all the latest updates and reaction below. Keep up with all the latest breaking news by signing up to our free email alerts by clicking here.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Bruno Fernandes just outside top 20
The next two names are unveiled and we’ve got Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, along with Argentina and Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez.
They come in tied for 21st.
Fernandes of course had an incredible start to the year with United as his scoring form continued, and his Europa League form was good too - though he didn’t have quite the required impact at the Euros. Martinez helped Inter to the Serie A title and was the starting centre-forward for his nation as they won the Copa America.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Harry Kane ranked 23rd
There’s the second of four English players from the shortlist: Harry Kane comes in 23rd.
The Spurs striker has had a shocker of a season so far domestically, but last year won the Golden Boot again in the Premier League and helped fire England to the Euro 2020 final, of course.
Ballon d’Or: Kopa contender Pedri in 24th
He’s in the running to win the Kopa Trophy tonight, but Barcelona’s midfield teenager Pedri doesn’t quite crack the top 20 this time around for the main event.
24th after what was effectively his second year in senior football is mightily special, all the same!
Ballon d’Or 2021: Phil Foden named in 25th place
Manchester City starlet Phil Foden is next out, placed 25th best player in world football. What a phenomenal achievement for the 21-year-old.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Man City’s Ruben Dias joint 26th
Three more names are out and we have three tied in joint 26th.
Nicolo Barella of Inter Milan, Manchester City’s central defender Ruben Dias and Spain and Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno all announced together.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Barcelona dominate the Feminin nominees
Five of the 20 shortlisted players for the Women’s Ballon d’Or play for Barcelona; given their stunning Champions League success last season it’s little surprise. As we’ve already mentioned, Alexia Putellas is the big favourite - but all her team-mates must be in the running too.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Legends pick their winners
Plenty of people have something to say on who the recipients of the award should be tonight.
Dani Alves says it should go to Christian Eriksen after his Euro 2020 collapse and subsequent recovery, saying it would “send a strong message” for football to have more sensitivity.
Francesco Totti would give it to Robert Lewandowski, after years of Messi and Ronaldo domination.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Reveal countdown begins with Modric and Azpilicueta
And the first two players are revealed together, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Chelsea’s Champions League-winning defender Cesar Azpilicueta both come in 29th.
The Crotian midfielder is of course a former winner of the Ballon d’Or, claiming the prize in 2018.
Ballon d’Or 2021: Here we go!
France Football teasing us with a mini announcement instead of the first revealed players...
Ballon d’Or 2021: Neymar out for the rest of the year
Neymar is on the list of nominees for tonight, though is not expected to be anywhere near the front-runners after a fairly disappointing time of matters - including defeat in the Copa America final.
His 2021 isn’t going to get any better either, as an ankle ligament injury is set to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks, it has just been announced. No more action for him until after the winter break and into the new year with PSG.
How low down the list of nominees will he appear tonight? The Ballon d’Or reveal is about to begin!
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies