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The last sprint for the Ballon d’Or

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The race for the 2021 Ballon d’Or has begun after the 30-man shortlist was released not too long ago.

The countdown will end on the November 29, when the award ceremony takes place in Paris, France.

After the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for so many years, aside from the 2018 hiccup when Luka Modric won the award, this year sees several candidates worthy of taking home the trophy.

Which players stand the best chance of being crowned the best footballer in the world?

Benzema

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema stands out as one of this year’s favourites, as the Frenchman put his team on his back and continued his fine form since Cristiano Ronaldo left the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The 33-year-old is currently in everyone’s minds following his wondergoal for France against Spain in the Nations League final on Sunday, October 10, when he equalised before Kylian Mbappe won France the match.

Benzema could be the first Frenchman to win the trophy since Zinedine Zidane did so back in 1998.

Messi

The man who has won the trophy more than anyone else, with a total of six to his name, Lionel Messi is also the current holder of the trophy.

Despite Barcelona not being in the richest patch of their history right now, the club that Messi left in the summer, the Argentine still added the Copa del Rey and the Pichichi Trophy to his collection in 2021. He then won the Copa America with Argentina over the summer.

There is no denying this man’s qualities, even at 34 years of age, so he is always in the running.

Lewandowski

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is looked at by many as the worthy winner of the 2020 Ballon d’Or.

Sadly, the award was scrapped that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore nobody won, but the Poland international will no doubt want to get his hands on the trophy once and for all.

With 48 goals in 40 games last season, including 41 in 29 league games, Lewandowski is one of the most in-form strikers in the world right now and stands out as one of the favourites.

Jorginho

Chelsea and Italy’s Jorginho is the only midfielder up for the award, a rare occurrence in this day and age, but this man’s 2021 has been more successful than anybody else’s.

Jorginho won Euro 2020 with Italy a couple of months after winning the Champions League with Chelsea, all before adding the UEFA Super Cup to his resume, and he now sits atop the Premier League with the Blues.

Having already won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award this year, Jorginho is the man to watch out for this year, with many pipping him as the favourite.

Cristiano Ronaldo

This man can never be counted out of the running.

At 36 years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo is showing no sign of slowing down, having recently moved back to Manchester United, where he has already scored five goals in his first six games.

With five Ballon d’Or awards under his belt already, the first of which came in 2008, 13 years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo can never be counted out.

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13 goals before 19 years old! Ansu Fati betters Messi’s stats

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Ansu Fati has not stopped breaking records since his emergence, both with Barcelona and with the Spanish national team, with numbers that better those of Leo Messi when he entered the professional scene.

Against Valencia he achieved another feat, becoming the Barcelona player with the most goals before the age of 19, with 13 strikes.

He is followed by Bojan Krkic, with 12, and Leo Messi, with seven. The young attacker managed seven goals in his debut season and four in the last campaign, of which he missed the majority due to injury.

His numbers are right up there with those of Messi as, at 18 years and 351 days old, Ansu has 15 goals for Barcelona while the Argentine, at the same age, had eight goals.

Ronald Koeman took Ansu off on 59 minutes due to his recent return to injury, but also because the Clasico is coming up this weekend and the teenager is already a pivotal player.

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Jurgen Klopp: Salah better than Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says, on current form, Mohamed Salah is the best player in the world after the Egyptian shone in the 5-0 win over Watford.

After scoring one of the most memorable goals of recent years in the draw with Manchester City two weeks ago, Salah was at it again at Vicarage Road, scoring a breathtaking effort and setting up two other goals in the 5-0 win over Watford.

It was Salah’s 10th goal of the season – he has scored in Liverpool’s last eight games.

Klopp was in no mood for dampening down the praise afforded to Salah, calling him the best player in the world.

He told BT Sport: “His performance was massive today. The pass for the first goal was great and the second goal was special. He is top. We all see it. Who is better than him? We don’t have to talk about what Messi and Ronaldo have done for world football and their dominance. But right now, he is the best.”

When asked for his assessment of the overall performance, Klopp added: “It was good! I cannot say differently. After international break, it is hard to find the rhythm after playing different systems, but the boys were so good despite only having one session before today. I think Watford had ideas, but we didn’t let them play. The goals were really brilliant, there was great attitude, energy and character.”

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Leicester 4-2 Man Utd: Foxes stifle Red Devils’ desperate hope for an EPL win

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Manchester United’s 29-game unbeaten away run ended in dramatic fashion as Leicester triumphed 4-2 in a six-goal thriller at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Mason Greenwood slammed the visitors into the lead after a clever one-two with Bruno Fernandes, before Foxes midfielder Youri Tielemans found the top corner from the edge of the box to level just after the half-hour.

The game exploded late on, when Caglar Soyuncu, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy netted in the space of six minutes to swing the game decisively in Leicester’s favour.

The result leaves United behind fourth-placed Brighton and outside the Champions League spots, with Brendan Rodgers’ side moving up to 11th.

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