The Ballon d’Or will be handed out for the first time in two years tonight, with Lionel Messi the strong favourite to claim the men’s award for a record seventh time at the ceremony in Paris.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward ended his long wait for a major international trophy when he helped Argentina win the Copa America in the summer, while he also guided Barcelona to Copa del Rey glory before moving to the French capital in August.
Lionel Messi’s likely closest challenger for the trophy is Robert Lewandowski, who was the favourite in 2020 before the awards were cancelled because of Covid.
Lewandowski has scored 73 goals in just 60 games for Bayern Munich since the start of last season and won FIFA’s and UEFA’s men’s player of the year awards in 2020.
There are 14 Premier League players on the 30-strong shortlist for the men’s award, including four – Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount and Cesar Azpilicueta – who helped Chelsea win the Champions League in May.
The Belgian Romelu Lukaku, who scored the goals that powered Inter Milan to their first Serie A title in 11 years before he moved to Stamford Bridge in the summer, is also shortlisted.
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Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling – are in the running after helping the national side to a first major final in 55 years at the Euros this summer.
The other nominees based in England are Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Riyad Mahrez, Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose five Ballon d’Ors are second only to Messi in the award’s history.
The women’s Ballon d’Or will also be awarded, with England’s Fran Kirby and Ellen White on a shortlist of 20 players.
Kirby is one of five Chelsea players nominated after they won the Women’s Super League and League Cup in 2021, while they also reached their first Champions League final.
Chelsea was beaten in that final by Barcelona, and four members of the Catalans’ victorious side are included on the shortlist.
There is no place though for Megan Rapinoe, who is the current holder of the award after winning in 2019.
Those nominated for the men’s and women’s Ballons d’Or are due to arrive at the red carpet in Paris around 7 pm UK time, with the ceremony scheduled to start about 30 minutes later.
The winners of the awards – which are decided by a jury of journalists from around the world – are due to be announced at approximately 9 pm.