| 2.4°C Dublin

fine mess This year's Ballon d'Or seems to be a foregone conclusion, but the wrong man may win this time

Lionel Messi looks set to be crowned as the world’s best player for a seventh time.

Close

N’Golo Kante, left, and Jorginho are in the running for the top awards (Mike Hewitt/PA)

N’Golo Kante, left, and Jorginho are in the running for the top awards (Mike Hewitt/PA)

N’Golo Kante, left, and Jorginho are in the running for the top awards (Mike Hewitt/PA)

The Ballon d'Or debate is raging ahead of next Monday's prize giving ceremony and the identity of this year's winner looks certain to divide opinion.

Lionel Messi looks set to be crowned as the world’s best player for a seventh time, even though three alternative champions would appear to have better claims to the title in 2021.

The annual Ballon d’Or coronation is due to take place at a gala event at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on November 29th, with Paris Saint-Germain star Lionel Messi expected to claim the prize once more.

Close

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or six times. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or six times. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or six times. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

That would be harsh on the Chelsea duo of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, as well as Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has also made a late push to land the prize after his sensational form in recent months, but an assessment of form over the entirety of 2021 may rule the Egyptian out of the running.

Yet in a competition often influenced by the star power of the game’s biggest icons, the remarkable success stories carved out by Jorginho and Kante should not be overlooked.

Firstly, the midfield duo played a crucial role in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph last May and then they have also enjoyed success on the international stage after match-winning performances.

Jorginho took centre stage as Italy secured Euro 2020 glory by beating hosts England in the final at Wembley Stadium last July, before Kante’s dynamic performances caught the eye as France won the UEFA Nations League last month.

While midfield string-pullers lack the sparkle of established superstars, former Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit believes Kante does not need the recognition of individual awards to promote his claims to be one of the best players in the game.

“I can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Kante,” said Petit, who won the World Cup with France in 1998.

“We like him for the person he is but we like him for the player he is on the pitch as well. The way he plays, he’s so focussed on his own game, always wants to get the better of his opponent, but always with a smile and humility.

“It’s very rare to see someone like that in society, not just in football, but to find people like this anywhere in the world. He leads by example in so many ways.

“He displays honesty, the right behaviour, commitment and sacrifices. I would love to have played alongside him and for me, no one needs this stupid Ballon d’Or trophy to show what a good player he is.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

“There is no meaning to this prize for the best player in the world. Football is a team game, always has been and always will be. Yet every year we have to sit there and celebrate someone winning an individual prize.

Close

Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Chelsea's Ngolo Kante with the trophy following his side's UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal on Saturday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

“Look at the France team that won the World Cup. They are all talking about trying to win the Ballon d’Or. Who cares about this stupid trophy? That is not what football is about. It’s only strikers that talk about this trophy.

“Everyone in football should hate this award, but there is so much focus on it. The players know it is good for their salary, their transfer fee and their career, so they don’t care about the team awards anymore.”

Petit’s forceful sentiments are echoed by Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who admits he has little interest in Jorginho and Kante’s claims to be known as the best player in the world.

“Do you believe me if I told you I don’t know who is on the list for this award?” said the Chelsea boss.

“I am not interested in the individual awards. What we did last season was a team effort. We reached the Champions League final - a big one to win - and that gives us the opportunity to have names on this (Ballon d’Or) list.

“We were more than just single players, we were a team, a group of friends almost. It felt like it. We were a strong club and the guys were a strong team in every single game.”

They are words that will resonate with plenty of football lovers who have rejected the desire of individuals to usurp their teammates, with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba an obvious example of a modern-day player who has an agenda to promote himself first and his team second.

Yet Messi and Ronaldo have helped to ensure it is a prize that has been elevated in its importance and that has been enhanced in an era when social media presence appears to have become as significant as genuine success on the field for too many players.

The world’s two best players for as long as most of us can remember have made no secret of their desire to be known as the world’s best time and again over the last 15 years, with the media and PR teams promoting their ‘brand’ eager to have their clients included on lists for individual prizes.

Close

Italy's Jorginho celebrates after scoring the last penalty kick during the Euro 2020 soccer championship semifinal match against Spain at Wembley stadium in London, England, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Jorginho converted the decisive penalty kick Tuesday to give Italy a 4-2 shootout win over Spain and a spot in the European Championship final. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)

Italy's Jorginho celebrates after scoring the last penalty kick during the Euro 2020 soccer championship semifinal match against Spain at Wembley stadium in London, England, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Jorginho converted the decisive penalty kick Tuesday to give Italy a 4-2 shootout win over Spain and a spot in the European Championship final. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)

Italy's Jorginho celebrates after scoring the last penalty kick during the Euro 2020 soccer championship semifinal match against Spain at Wembley stadium in London, England, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Jorginho converted the decisive penalty kick Tuesday to give Italy a 4-2 shootout win over Spain and a spot in the European Championship final. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)

Jorginho has been drawn into the debate after he was named as UEFA’s Player of the Year back in August following his Euro 2020 heroics with Italy.

“Who doesn’t dream of winning the Ballon d’Or? Dreaming small and dreaming big are the same thing, so it’s better to dream big,” declared the 29-year-old Brazilian-born midfielder.

“It’s not up to me to say if I should win the Ballon d’Or, but it would be an incentive for other players, to show that not only goals are taken into account.

“I don’t want to have too many expectations, but I would be hypocritical if I said I don’t thinkabout it.

“It’s great if it happens, but if it doesn’t, I won’t complain. I keep my feet on the ground and I focus on something else, I’ve already won the best player of the year by UEFA.”

Chelsea’s unsung midfield heroes will take centre stage as Tuchel’s side continue their defence of the Champions League with a heavyweight showdown against Juventus at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

A 1-0 defeat in the reserve leg of this fixture in September was one of the more disappointing nights in Chelsea’s otherwise impressive season, with Blues striker Romelu Lukaku pushing to make a return to action for a game that will be crucial in the destiny of Group H in the Champions League.

Victory for Chelsea against a Juve side that has not been at their best this season should pave the way for the current kings of European football to top their group.

It will also be another occasion for Jorginho and Kante to confirm they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the game’s modern greats.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy