Ballon d'Or 2021: How have Euro 2020 and the Copa America impacted the favourites' chances?

By Sports Desk July 12, 2021

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America had the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Italy and Argentina lifted the respective trophies at the weekend, with the Azzurri beating England in a penalty shoot-out and La Albiceleste seeing off bitter rivals Brazil at the Maracana to win the Copa for the first time since 1993.

Stats Perform has looked at 13 of the leading candidates to feature at either tournament to determine how their chances look heading into the new season.

Jorginho

Before Euro 2020, N'Golo Kante was the Chelsea midfielder seen to be within the best shot of scooping individual honours at the end of 2021, but a month on it's Jorginho who is the European champion at club and international level.

While he has perhaps been underappreciated or misunderstood at times with Chelsea, perhaps supporters will see him in a new light after playing a vital role in Italy's success as their deep-lying playmaker.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Lewandowski's Ballon d'Or hopes arguably aren't any worse now than before the Euros as no one will have expected Paulo Sousa's men to make much of an impact. He got three goals in as many games and was only out-scored by six players, which is a solid achievement.

 

Marco Verratti

Had he not been injured for the first two games of Euro 2020, there's every possibility it would have been Verratti being crowned as player of the tournament, with the Paris Saint-Germain star arguably the player who embodies the qualities of Roberto Mancini's transformed Italy side more than any other.

Not only did he create more chances than anyone else at Euro 2020 (14), but averaged more touches (114.5) than anyone, played the fourth-most passes (87.1) and ranked third for tackles (four) per 90 minutes among all players to have featured for at least 125 minutes. His all-action excellence set the tone for the Azzurri's vibrant and, ultimately, successful football.

 

N'Golo Kante

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory, named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final versus Real Madrid and the final against Manchester City.

But France's last-16 elimination by Switzerland will have done little to boost his chances, with Paul Pogba rather than Kante the standout figure for Les Bleus. While a nomination is almost a certainty, taking the gong home now looks beyond the all-action midfielder.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

His exceptional quality was further underlined by the fact only Verratti created more chances than him over the course of the tournament, an impressive feat given he started the tournament late due to injury and then had to play through another fitness issue in Belgium's final match, but that's unlikely to be enough to earn him the award.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Generally, the player considered to be the best at a major international competition has a pretty good chance of winning further accolades, so in that case Donnarumma may have a reasonable opportunity after UEFA crowned him Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament.

Statistically there were numerous goalkeepers who were more important than him to their respective teams given he technically didn't prevent any goals according to Opta's xGOT metric – Tomas Vaclik's prevented a tournament-high 2.5. Nevertheless, Donnarumma wasn't guilty of any drops or errors that led to shots, and made crucial saves across two penalty shoot-outs, including a couple in the final.

 

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

A slow start to Euro 2020 followed, although Kane scored four times in the knockout phase as he played a key role in England's journey to the final. But when it mattered most he failed to have a single touch in the Italy penalty area. A talismanic performance in the showpiece may have put him firmly in the running, but it's difficult to see him being a major contender now.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

He certainly cannot be accused of failing to deliver for Belgium given he scored four times, but they came up short against Italy in the quarter-finals, with a partially injured De Bruyne unable to truly weave his magic. Lukaku's influence upon Inter shouldn't be overlooked, but the achievements of others on the international stage may overshadow his own.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it did put him right in the mix and he followed that up with a starring role in Argentina's Copa triumph, the first senior international trophy of his career. Given his lack of success with La Albiceleste was arguably the final barrier to clear in his career, a Ballon d'Or will surely follow later this year as he led Lionel Scaloni's men with four goals (joint-most) and five assists (the most).

 

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day, but it probably won't be in 2021. He was one of the biggest disappointments at Euro 2020, failing to score once despite his chances having an accumulative xG value of 2.02 – that under-performance was second-worst to Gerard Moreno (3.32).

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he only had an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or ahead of the Copa America, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

While his performances with Brazil would see him included in most people's team of the tournament, he wasn't dependable in front of goal, his one non-penalty strike coming from 5.3 xG, an under-performance unmatched by anyone in the tournament. He'll have to wait a bit longer for the prize he supposedly craves above all others.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

He definitely didn't do his chances any harm as he won the Golden Boot for most goals (five) – beating Patrik Schick by virtue of having more assists – after becoming the Euros' all-time leading scorer (11) and levelling Ali Daei's world-record haul of 109 international goals, but Portugal's failure to get beyond the last 16 won't help.

 

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

But he could only muster one goal at the Copa America as he and Uruguay had a minimal impact, meaning it'll take something special for Suarez to be a major candidate at the end of the year.

Related items

  • Conte's squad frustrations laid bare as Chelsea outclass Spurs again Conte's squad frustrations laid bare as Chelsea outclass Spurs again

    A big week now approaches for Tottenham – while no manager will ever admit to being happy about losing, Spurs' 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday may actually do Antonio Conte a favour.

    The Italian has hinted at his desire to bring in reinforcements this month. Until this point, Spurs have not given into his apparent demands, but another loss to Chelsea might force their hand.

    The last week of the transfer window is about to begin and there is every reason to think it could define Spurs' season given the clues on show at Stamford Bridge.

    This contest arguably lacked the usual lustre in the build-up given how recently they tussled in the EFL Cup, a two-legged semi-final that left the two clubs looking worlds apart.

    Even Conte himself was damning in his appraisal of their respective outlooks, suggesting there was no comparison between his side and the team that won the Champions League last season.

    Chelsea won their EFL Cup tie 3-0 on aggregate, thus Conte knew changes were going to be required here.

    He returned to his former club with a plan, but perhaps few expected him to go – for want of a better phrase – 'full Mourinho'.

    The 'Special One' built much of his reputation on being tough to beat, and Conte certainly made several decisions that were Jose Mourinho-esque, not least the fact he deployed full-backs in front of full-backs on the flank as the Italian seemingly set his side up to be functional rather than entertaining.

    That's not to say Chelsea didn't find some joy. Mason Mount proved a nuisance with his movement in the half spaces in attack, with Spurs struggling to pick him up as he seemed to fall outside of the jurisdiction of everyone in defence and midfield.

    That was evident as early as the first minute as his cross found Romelu Lukaku, who volleyed over – later, they combined in exactly the same way but the Belgium striker completely missed his kick.

    Eventually Spurs reacted to Mount's presence with another Mourinhoism, as Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg slotted in to plug the gap in that area, something Mourinho's central midfielders often used to do in his classic Chelsea sides that went with two banks of four.

    With Harry Kane accompanied by Steven Bergwijn in the Lucas Moura role up top, Spurs' grand plan was pretty clear as they hoped to be able to capitalise on any rare forays forward – it looked as though they had as well, with the Dutchman picking out the England captain to net just before half-time, only for the goal to be wiped out for a slight push on Thiago Silva.

    But there was seemingly an ulterior motive surrounding Conte's selection and tactics as well, as he appeared to be sending message to sporting director Fabio Paratici.

    Three viable and available central attacking players were completely left out, with Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso all missing – the latter even confirmed on social media that he was fit.

    Harvey White, still awaiting his Premier League debut, and Dane Scarlett, a 17-year-old, were selected ahead of them on the bench, with Conte's decisions here a not-so-subtle evaluation of the attacking midfielders available to him.

    The fact is, this came just two days after Conte said he hoped "the club will listen to me" regarding their transfer dealings before the end of the month – he didn't reveal what he had put across to his employers, though these exclusions were surely a hint at the very least.

    Given the options otherwise available to him – as in the players he trusts in midfield – Conte perhaps didn't actually have much of a choice to deploy this set-up.

    But can Spurs realistically hope to qualify for the Champions League with their only trusted central midfielders being Hojbjerg, Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp? You would think not, and certainly not on the evidence of this match, with Spurs barely laying a glove on Chelsea bar the disallowed Kane goal as the hosts were allowed to control the midfield.

    Of course, it's worth saying Spurs were also a little unfortunate. Whichever way you look at it, the disallowing of Kane's goal was harsh, and Hakim Ziyech's gorgeous opener was a moment of magic. 

    Silva's second was controversial as well because the foul that was awarded from which Mount set up the Brazilian appeared to be questionable.

    Yet even if they had still been within touching distance of Chelsea heading into the latter stages, a quick glance at the benches showed an incredible gulf in talent available to the managers.

    There's a lot of work to be done with Spurs' squad and the next week could make or break their season.

  • 'It was important to him' – Napoli captain Insigne matches Maradona goal haul 'It was important to him' – Napoli captain Insigne matches Maradona goal haul

    Lorenzo Insigne moved alongside Diego Maradona on Napoli's all-time list of leading goalscorers after hitting his 115th goal for the Serie A club.

    The Italy international converted a penalty early in the second half of Sunday's 4-1 derby win against Salernitana.

    That meant he joined Maradona in a tie for third place in the Napoli record books.

    Dries Mertens heads that list and slotted a penalty just before half-time to give Napoli a 2-1 lead, his 144th goal for the club.

    Belgium international Mertens stepped aside to allow Insigne to take responsibility for the second spot-kick in the 53rd minute.

    Insigne had come on as a substitute for the start of the second half, and Mertens said: "I left the second penalty to Lorenzo because it was important to him."

    Writing on Instagram after the match, Insigne expressed his delight at the victory.

    He will leave at the end of the season to join Toronto FC, but the 30-year-old insisted he would always hold the club dear.

    "The derbies are not played… they are won…. We continue like this until the end," Insigne wrote. "Always and forever FORZA NAPOLI."

    Insigne is now six goals behind second-placed Marek Hamsik on the Napoli goalscoring list.

    The late Argentina legend Maradona remains the greatest and most revered player in Napoli's history, having joined from Barcelona in 1984 and spent seven years in Naples.

    He helped Napoli win league titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90 – the only Serie A championships the club have won – and his death in November sparked an outpouring of grief in the city.

    Sunday's goal was Insigne's sixth goal of the season across all competitions, with Napoli's win moving them just four points behind Serie A leaders Inter.

    Mertens believes Napoli can still push Inter hard for the title, saying on the club's website: "We must continue like this and look only at us. The championship is still long and we can be protagonists."

  • Ancelotti: Small details cost Madrid in dramatic Elche draw Ancelotti: Small details cost Madrid in dramatic Elche draw

    Carlo Ancelotti suggested "small details" cost Real Madrid in a 2-2 draw with Elche that required a spirited late recovery.

    The LaLiga leaders missed the chance to move six points clear at the top of the table as they were held by their 15th-placed opponents, who took a surprise 2-0 lead at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    After Luka Modric's penalty gave them hope – his first spot-kick for Madrid after Karim Benzema, who earlier missed from 12 yards for the first time in LaLiga, went off injured – it took a stoppage-time header from Eder Militao to spare Madrid's blushes and extend their year-long unbeaten home run in the Spanish top flight.

    While Madrid were waiting to discover the extent of Benzema's injury, Ancelotti said he was disappointed with the manner in which Elche scored – netting twice away at Madrid for the first time since January 1989.

    But the coach was at least encouraged by his team's response, remaining unbeaten against Elche since 1978, having now scored at least two in 10 of the 12 games in that span.

    "They scored a goal with a centre. For the second goal, we could have been more compact," Ancelotti said. "They are small details that have cost us two points

    "We are not happy, but there are many things we have to consider. 

    "We conceded two goals and we reacted well. Usually these games are lost, but it speaks very well of the squad."

    There are 11 days until Madrid return to action when they face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, 12 days before taking on Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16.

    "We have a small break, and we arrive well-positioned in all three competitions," Ancelotti added. "That's what we wanted to do. 

    "We are there, now comes the most important period of the season."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.