Romelu Lukaku scored his first Premier League goal since September and Jorginho struck from the penalty spot twice as Chelsea beat Aston Villa 3-1.

Thomas Tuchel's side had fallen behind to a Reece James own goal in the 28th minute, but they restored parity shortly after thanks to a Jorginho spot-kick.

Half-time substitute Lukaku then headed home for the first time in the top flight since he scored a brace against Villa at Stamford Bridge on September 11, before Jorginho added a third with another penalty in stoppage time. 

The victory meant Chelsea moved level on points with second-placed Liverpool, who have a game in hand, while Villa dropped down to 10th after earlier moving up to ninth following Leicester City's heavy defeat to Manchester City.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Thomas Tuchel hailed the attitude of Antonio Rudiger after the centre-back won two penalties, including what would be a 94th-minute winner as Chelsea overcame Leeds United 3-2.

A rollercoaster of a contest on Saturday saw Leeds go ahead via a penalty of their own at Stamford Bridge, dispatched by Raphinha.

Mason Mount equalised before half-time and then Rudiger found himself in the penalty box just before the hour mark, where he was adjudged to have been fouled by Raphinha, with Jorginho making no mistake from the spot.

Teenager Joe Gelhardt thought he had snatched a point for his team after emerging from the bench to turn home seven minutes from the end, but Rudiger was once again on the end of a clattering in the opposition box in stoppage time, with Mateusz Klich bringing him down, and Jorginho converted for a second time to win it for the Blues.

Speaking to the media after the game, Tuchel was full of praise for Rudiger and his will to win.

"He did not accept today to lose, we can agree on this one," Tuchel said. "We expected an intense match for Toni and [Cesar Azpilicueta] because of Leeds' unique style of defending.

"They have to be constantly in the game and focus on defending and attacking. They arrived in these spaces because they let us drive in there. It was good because he did not accept to lose."

The London club had come off a tumultuous week, losing top spot in the Premier League after a 3-2 defeat at West Ham, before also losing first place in their Champions League group following a 3-3 draw at Zenit in midweek, and Tuchel was relieved his team put that behind them with a win.

"I was confident we'd get one more chance and turn things around because we played very strong in the first half and showed a good reaction after the equaliser," the Chelsea head coach added.

"We played with a fear maybe to lose and we didn't want to lose what we worked so hard for. It was a bit of luck in the end when you get a late goal but we've conceded two of them so maybe it was our turn.

"We needed this win desperately for the mood, the feeling, the atmosphere. We have two days off now which we need for the boys."

The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain head coach also had some kind words for the match-winner, Jorginho, whose penalty after 93 minutes and 11 seconds was Chelsea's latest winning goal in a Premier League game since Florent Malouda's strike against Stoke in September 2009 (93:36).

"He is super important," Tuchel continued. "He sacrifices himself for many weeks actually. I knew this moment would come where he suffers because he played Champions League, then played in Europe with Italy, then qualifiers for the World Cup, so it was not only physical effort for him but it was mentally very demanding.

"He had no pre-season, started the Super Cup straight away, so I knew there would be a point in the season he doesn't feel fully fit.

"But Jorgi is fully aware of the situation and has sacrificed. He has been hours and hours with the physios and medical department to get himself in the best shape possible."

Cristiano Ronaldo lost ground in his quest to claim more Ballon d'Or awards than his rival Lionel Messi, finishing sixth while the Argentine claimed a historic seventh award.

It is the first time the Portugal forward, who was not in attendance at the ceremony in Paris on Monday, has not been named in the top three since 2010, when Messi – who won his second prize that year – was joined by then Barcelona team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Ronaldo managed 30 goals at club level in 2021 for Juventus and Manchester United, while also becoming the all-time top scorer in men's international football.

The 36-year-old finishes above Paris Saint-Germain pair Gianluigi Donnarumma and Kylian Mbappe as well as Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah.

Salah and Mbappe both outscored Ronaldo at club level this calendar year, scoring 32 and 37 goals across all competitions, but finished seventh and ninth respectively.

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante and Real Madrid centre-forward Karim Benzema claimed the fifth and fourth spots, with Ronaldo's former team-mate enjoying a prolific year, managing 34 goals and 12 assists for Los Blancos in all competitions.

Jorginho, who won the Euros with Italy and claimed the Champions League with Chelsea, makes it into the top three behind Messi and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who finished second but won the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Lewandowski had been considered the favourite before then, partly due to breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season, while he has netted 53 times in 2021.

The Poland striker looked likely to have won the award in 2020 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ballon d'Or top 10:

1. Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
3. Jorginho (Chelsea and Italy)
4. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)
5. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal)
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
8. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
9. Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)

Jorginho atoned for his earlier error with an equaliser from the spot as Chelsea recovered to draw 1-1 with Michael Carrick's Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Italy midfielder Jorginho looked to have set United on their way to victory in what is likely to be Carrick's only Premier League match as manager before he is replaced by another interim appointment in Ralf Rangnick.

No ever-present Premier League team have earned fewer points from losing positions than Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel's arrival in January, but Jadon Sancho's first goal in the competition after Jorginho's blunder was followed by similarly generous United defending.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka's foul on Thiago Silva teed up a Jorginho penalty, with a point – taking the Blues clear of Manchester City – the very least the hosts deserved.

United were beaten 4-1 by Watford last time out in the league in what proved to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's last match at the helm and familiar frailties were soon evident as neither Wan-Bissaka nor Victor Lindelof cut out a straightforward ball, forcing David de Gea to save smartly from Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Only the frame of the goal kept United on level terms going into the break, as Antonio Rudiger's long-range drive crashed against the crossbar, but Carrick's side were rewarded for staying in the game early in the second half.

Jorginho's loose touch gave Sancho a clear run from halfway and he used the potential square pass to Marcus Rashford as a decoy before slotting past Edouard Mendy.

Yet United gave Jorginho an opportunity to earn his reprieve when Wan-Bissaka hacked at Silva in the box, allowing the Chelsea midfielder to send De Gea the wrong way from 12 yards.

The result could have gone either way from that point, with Fred aiming a delicate chip into Mendy's arms after the goalkeeper had inexplicably passed him the ball, before Rudiger rifled a last-gasp volley over the crossbar when unmarked.

Robert Lewandowski can consider himself hard done by. The Bayern Munich striker would almost certainly have won his maiden Ballon d'Or in 2020, only for France Football to decide not to hand out the award due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, world football's most prestigious individual accolade is back up for grabs this year, with the ceremony set to take place on Monday.

Lewandowski, who scooped The Best FIFA Men's Player award for 2020 and has had another sensational year for Bayern, is among the favourites on a 30-man shortlist.

Will it finally be his time, or will old voting habits die hard to put Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in pole position? Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses the credentials of the Ballon d'Or favourites.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)

Has anybody outperformed Bayern star Lewandowski in 2021?  While there was no repeat of the treble-winning heroics of the 2019-20 campaign, he has been in astounding form and last season broke Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, netting 41 as Die Roten were crowned champions for a ninth straight campaign.

With 25 to his name already across all competitions this term, Lewandowski leads the way for goals from players in Europe's top five leagues, nine clear of anyone else. When taking the whole year so far into account, Lewandowski has netted 53 times in 41 games, putting him 16 clear of nearest challengers Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. Unsurprisingly, his scoring rate – a goal every 65 minutes – is comfortably the best of any player to net 10 or more in 2021.

 

Lionel Messi (PSG, Argentina)

It has been a momentous year for Messi. He finally achieved success on the international stage, leading Argentina to a Copa America triumph. Following that, he was expected to sign a fresh deal at Barcelona, but we all know how that turned out. Now at Paris Saint-Germain, the 34-year-old marked his final season in Spain with one last trophy, the 2020-21 Copa del Rey. 

Across 39 appearances in 2021 for Barca and PSG combined, Messi has 32 goals, nine assists and 81   chances created. But it is Messi's triumph with Argentina that really puts him in the running for a seventh Ballon d'Or.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, Portugal)

Like Messi, Ronaldo – a five-time Ballon d'Or winner – made a big move of his own in 2021, returning to Manchester United after three seasons at Juventus. The 36-year-old has already scored 10 goals in his second spell at Old Trafford. While the team's struggles are well known – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing his job after last week's dismal defeat at Watford – Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal on Tuesday took him to 799 career goals for club and country, a remarkable feat.

While it has not been the finest year at club level for Ronaldo, with Juve missing out on the Serie A title, albeit winning the Coppa Italia, he did become the record goalscorer in men's international football, scoring his 110th and 111th goals in a double against the Republic of Ireland in September to overtake Ali Daei (109); the forward now has 115. His agent, Jorge Mendes, told France Football: "All these achievements, which represent the greatest performance in football history, should be pivotal in awarding the trophy, as he continues to demonstrate that he is, without doubt, the best world football player of all time."

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)

Since Ronaldo departed Real Madrid in 2018, Benzema has stepped up to become Los Blancos' talisman. Although a LaLiga title evaded Madrid last season, it has been another fantastic year for Benzema. He earned a recall to the France squad for Euro 2020 and, despite the team's disappointing campaign, his stellar performances caught the eye, before he excelled again in World Cup qualifying and the Nations League Finals.

Indeed, Benzema's goal against Finland last week made him the first France player to score in four successive matches since he did so himself in five games between November 2013 and June 2014. There is no doubting he is a serious contender for this year's award.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)

Liverpool star Salah cannot be ignored. Jurgen Klopp has labelled the Egypt forward as the world's best player and, based on the season so far, it would be hard to argue too much with that suggestion, with Lewandowski the only player across Europe's top five leagues to be directly involved in more goals (27) than Salah (24) to this point.

Only four players have topped Salah's goals tally of 32   in 2021, although Liverpool's failure to retain their Premier League crown last season probably counts against the 29-year-old when it comes to this prize.

 

Kylian Mbappe (PSG, France)

While players in their thirties dominate the bookmakers' list of favourites, could this be the year that Mbappe steals the crown? The 22-year-old could well have left PSG in August, but the Ligue 1 giants held firm despite three bids from Madrid, who seem likely to get their man on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

In the meantime, Mbappe is forming a formidable front three with Messi and Neymar, whose own Ballon d'Or hopes seem extremely slim. Mbappe missed the decisive penalty as France slipped out of Euro 2020, but his 37 goals from 47 appearances for PSG across all competitions in 2021 tell their own story, while his shot conversion rate of 24.3 per cent betters that of Salah, Benzema, Messi and Ronaldo.

Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)

An outsider for the award, perhaps, but nevertheless a player who has been widely tipped, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho played a pivotal role the Blues' Champions League triumph and then Italy's Euro 2020 success, although he did miss a penalty in the final shoot-out against England. In fact, he has now missed his past three spot-kicks for Italy, after having scored each of his first six taken for the Azzurri.

Jorginho has already scooped the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award, and it is not too long ago that another deep-lying playmaker in Luka Modric won the Ballon d'Or, even if the competition this time around seems a little too stacked.

 

N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Might Jorginho's Chelsea midfield partner have a shout? Kante is still dominating midfields with his boundless energy five years on from his title triumph with Leicester City. He was already an elite performer before Thomas Tuchel's arrival at Stamford Bridge, but he seems to have gone up another level since the German coach came in.

Across all competitions in 2021, Kante boasts a tackle success rate of 63.2 per cent and has made 193 recoveries. Freed by a box-to-box role in Tuchel's system, Kante has won 151 of 277 duels and registered an impressive 42 interceptions.

Thomas Tuchel has hailed Jorginho's personality and character as he backed the Chelsea star to recover from a frustrating international break.

Jorginho missed a penalty as Italy drew with Switzerland, a result that left the European champions in need of a victory against Northern Ireland to ensure their spot at Qatar 2022.

However, the Azzurri – who missed out on Russia 2018 after a play-off defeat to Sweden – must now win two more games in March to book their spot at next year's World Cup, after they were held to a goalless draw in Belfast and Switzerland thrashed Bulgaria 4-0.

Jorginho has had a stellar year, helping Chelsea to Champions League glory before winning Euro 2020 with Italy. His efforts saw him named UEFA's Men's Player of the Year in August, while he has also been nominated for this year's Ballon d'Or.

Yet after having scored each of the first six penalties taken for Italy, Jorginho has failed his last three (including in shoot-outs, with the midfielder having squandered spot-kicks against both Switzerland and England at Euro 2020).

Jorginho played 68 minutes of Monday's clash at Windsor Park. Only four Italy players – all defenders – completed more passes than his 53, with 38 of these coming in Northern Ireland's half, while he made more interceptions than any of his team-mates (three).

"If there's a guy to handle this disappointment, it's Jorgi," Tuchel told a news conference.

"I fully trust his personality, his character. For me the most important thing is that when he arrives here he feels safe in Cobham, that he knows that everybody will support him, no matter what happens outside this building, he is our player, he is fully protected and fully appreciated.

"We are super happy that he's back. These things happen during a career, he is not the first one to miss an important penalty and will not be the last one.

"He has enough character, enough difficulties in his career if you know the story, like how he made it to professional football, what obstacles he had to overcome, this is a bump on the road and no more.

"We will do everything so that he feels good and can continue to play on the highest level like he did from day one."

While Jorginho endured a disappointing international break, another Chelsea midfielder enjoyed a first senior call-up.

Having impressed on loan at Crystal Palace so far this season, scoring four league goals, Conor Gallagher was handed his England debut in a 10-0 win over San Marino.

Gallagher, who spent last season on loan at West Brom, only signed a five-year deal at Chelsea in 2020, though Tuchel was asked about plans for the midfielder's future.

"This is too early to talk about it, way too early in public, before we talk with Conor and see his goals and what he wants," he replied.

"This will happen [at the end of the season] because we all agreed it was the best step to join Palace and Patrick Vieira.

"I am not surprised that the national coach loves him because I loved him from day one, there cannot be a coach who does not love guys like this."

Of the possibility of recalling Gallagher in January, Tuchel said: "I have not thought to bring him back earlier, it is important for him to be happy where he is and for him to stay in the moment.

"It's important to be calm at this stage of his career. I don't think it's necessary to change again in January."

Leaders Chelsea play away to Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci has backed Jorginho to remain on penalty duties despite the midfielder's potentially costly miss in Friday's 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

Jorginho fired over the bar from 12 yards in the 90th minute after Ulisses Garcia was adjudged to have nudged over fellow substitute Domenico Berardi inside the box.

The Chelsea man has now missed three penalties in a row for Italy – one against England in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out and two against Switzerland in World Cup 2022 qualifying.

That follows a run of six successful spot-kicks on the spin, and skipper Bonucci is happy for Jorginho to take Italy's next penalty.

"He is our penalty taker and will continue to be," Bonucci told Rai Sport. "Four months ago he scored the decisive penalty against Spain that took us to the Euros final.

"We all make mistakes. Now we must look ahead to our next game if we are to reach the World Cup."

 

Jorginho's miss came after Giovanni Di Lorenzo had cancelled out fellow right-back Silvan Widmer's drive in a gripping first half at Stadio Olimpico.

Italy would have moved three points clear of Switzerland at the top of Group C had Jorginho converted, but instead they remain level on points with their opponents.

Azzurri goalscorer Di Lorenzo joined Bonucci in defending Jorginho's recent record from the spot.

"He may have missed his last three, but he is a great champion and he's our penalty taker," Di Lorenzo told Rai Sport. "We will all support him to get through this moment."

Italy have a slightly superior goal difference to Switzerland, meaning they only have to match Murat Yakin's side's scoreline in the final round of games if they are to qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and avoid the play-offs.

European champions Italy travel to Northern Ireland on Monday, while Switzerland are at home to Bulgaria in their concluding qualifier.

Despite his side having won just two of their six matches since lifting the European Championship trophy, Roberto Mancini is confident his side can complete the job in Belfast.

"Against Northern Ireland we start with an advantage, and it's not a small one," Mancini said. "If we play well and score the goals we didn't score today...

"It was a difficult game and we were impacted by the goal we conceded. It's a shame that we didn't score in the second half."

Northern Ireland have not conceded in any of their three home qualifiers this campaign, but Gianluigi Donnarumma insisted his side will head to Windsor Park with the mindset of scoring goals.

"It's normal to be angry, but we don't worry too much because in a few days there is another important match," he said. "We need to recharge our energy immediately and we will be ready to have a great match and win.

"We will head into the next game with the right mentality that is needed to win the match and go to the World Cup. Right now we have to think only about winning and about ourselves.

"We will see what happens in the other match in the group afterwards. We have to think about winning and scoring a few goals. Then we will see what happens."

Jorginho missed a late penalty as Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland in Friday's eventful contest at Stadio Olimpico, leaving both sides' automatic qualifying hopes for the 2022 World Cup in the balance. 

There was nothing to separate the teams at the top of Group C in terms of points accrued heading into the contest and that is how it remained after a gripping 90 minutes in Rome. 

The Azzurri fell behind to a powerful Silvan Widmer drive after 11 minutes but hit back through fellow right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo's header before half-time. 

European champions Italy had a glorious chance to win the game in the 90th minute and take control at the summit, but Jorginho skied his spot-kick to set up a tense final round of fixtures. 

Jorginho is dreaming of winning the World Cup with Italy while he played down the potential of him winning the Ballon d'Or.

The Chelsea midfielder enjoyed glory for club and country after winning the Champions League with Thomas Tuchel's men and Euro 2020 with Italy, becoming just the 10th player to achieve the double in the same year.

His performances across the two competitions led him to be named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year in August as the award's top three was comprised exclusively of midfielders for the first time in 11 years.

Indeed, at the European Championships across June and July, Jorginho topped Italy's charts for recoveries (48) and interceptions (25) while only Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644) made more successful passes than the 29-year-old's 484.

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in his sights, Jorginho described winning the tournament as his lifelong ambition while remaining unsure on who would claim the Ballon d'Or.

"I don't know honestly. If you don't dream anymore you can stop playing football," Jorginho responded to Sky Sport Italia when asked about the individual award.

"My dream is to win the next match. Then I dream of the World Cup, who is the child who has never dreamed of it?

"I never imagined I would get this far, but I dreamed and all I've done is to chase my dream, now I'm living it and I'm proud.

"I am happy to give my family pride. And another dream could come true in the winter of 2022."

The midfielder has enjoyed another positive start to the new Premier League term with Chelsea, who sit a point clear at the top of the league after nine games.

Jorginho ranks sixth for minutes played under Tuchel in the top flight this term, racking up 559 minutes of action, and ranks fourth for successful passes (363) as he remains the Blues' pivot between attack and defence.

When asked about his club form, Jorginho replied: "We are on the right path, we are working hard, and we must continue like this.

"The more you work together, the more you understand what you need to do, learning new movements and creating an increasingly winning mentality.

"All this gives you solidity, confidence and makes you grow as a group. And that's what's happening at Chelsea."

Jorginho is dreaming of winning the Ballon d'Or as Azzurri head coach Roberto Mancini insisted no one is more "deserving" than the Chelsea and Italy star.

Having won Euro 2020 with Italy after helping Chelsea to Champions League glory last season, Jorginho is among the nominees for this year's Ballon d'Or, alongside the likes of Paris Saint-Germain superstar and Copa America winner Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

Jorginho already received the UEFA Men's Player of the Year prize following his exploits for club and country.

"Ballon d'Or? That's the dream of every child in the world," Jorginho told reporters ahead of Sunday's Nations League third-place play-off against Belgium.

"I learnt that dreaming little things and big things is exactly the same. So, I prefer to dream big things."

"It would be incredible," the 29-year-old midfielder continued. "I can't find words to explain it. I could never imagine it when I start my career. But now I'm so close and that's really incredible, I feel so good."

Jorginho added: "Things are changing fast. I worked very hard with Chelsea and Italy, then this perfect season happened.

"Everyone helped me. I do not feel pressure, to be honest. I'm calm because everyone believes in me. I'm happy."

Italy boss Mancini also endorsed Jorginho for the prized individual honour, telling a news conference: "They were nominated because they are good players and not because of me.

"If I have to choose one, I'd give it to Jorginho because he won Champions League, Euro Cup and FA Cup. He deserves it, I do not see anyone deserving it more than him."

After not being awarded in 2020, the Ballon d'Or – football's most prestigious individual award – is back up for grabs this year.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi is the overwhelming favourite with the bookmakers to win a record-extending seventh trophy.

Messi was, of course, among a shortlist of 30 players nominated on Friday, with that number to be whittled down to just three players next month.

Here, Stats Perform looks at five candidates for the prize… starting with the obvious.

Lionel Messi

Barcelona may be in turmoil, but Lionel Messi was still at his extraordinary best before departing for Paris Saint-Germain amid financial strife for the LaLiga heavyweights – albeit on the trophy front he won only the Copa del Rey last term. In 2021, Messi has 29 goals, nine assists and 76 chances created domestically for Barca and PSG. But it is Messi's triumph with Argentina at the Copa America that make him the favourite for a seventh Ballon d'Or, with the achievement finally marking his first title on the international stage. Messi had four goals and five assists as Lionel Scaloni's men celebrated success in Brazil.

Jorginho

It has been a year to remember for Jorginho, who has been one of the biggest beneficiaries following Thomas Tuchel's appointment as Chelsea boss in January. The deep-lying playmaker was influential as the Blues were crowned Champions League winners for the second time, securing the trophy thanks to a 1-0 win over Manchester City. Fast forward two months and Jorginho was celebrating Euro 2020 success with Italy, playing in every match for the Azzurri, who defeated England in the final via a penalty shoot-out at Wembley. His achievements have already been acknowledged after he was named UEFA's Men Player of the Year.

N'Golo Kante

Much like team-mate Jorginho, N'Golo Kante has been superb under the tutelage of Tuchel. Kante was a top performer as Chelsea defeated Real Madrid in the semi-finals and was named man of the match following an all-action display against City in the final. France's shock last-16 exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020 is likely to count against Kante, but he remains one the finest midfielders in the game.

Robert Lewandowski

Really the only thing that denied Robert Lewandowski winning a Ballon d'Or in 2020 was France Football's decision not to present the award amid the coronavirus pandemic. While there was no repeat of the treble-winning heroics of that disrupted 2019-20 campaign, Lewandowski has still been in astounding form for Bayern Munich and last season broke Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, netting 41 as Die Roten were crowned champions for a ninth straight campaign. So far in 2021 across Europe's top-five leagues, Lewandowski leads the way for goals scored (41) and big chances (as defined by Opta) scored (34).

Cristiano Ronaldo

Much like Messi, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo did not necessarily enjoy his finest year in terms of domestic trophies won. Juventus ended up in a disappointing fourth position in Serie A, while they were knocked out of the Champions League last 16 by Porto. But he did finish as top scorer in the league with 29 goals and helped the Bianconeri win the Coppa Italia before he left to re-join Manchester United in a late transfer window move. Internationally, Ronaldo – at the age of 36 – finished top scorer at Euro 2020, where Portugal's defence of the European Championship was ended at the last-16 stage. In September, he became the record goalscorer in men's international football, as a brace against the Republic of Ireland took him to 111.

 

Ballon d'Or 2021 shortlist in full:  Cesar Azpilicueta, Nicolo Barella, Karim Benzema, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Bruno Fernandes, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Jorginho, Harry Kane, N'Golo Kante, Simon Kjaer, Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku, Riyad Mahrez, Lautaro Martinez, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, Gerard Moreno, Mason Mount, Neymar, Pedri, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez.

The winner of the prestigious prize will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on November 29.

 

 

The contenders for the Kopa Trophy – awarded to the world's best male under-21 footballer – was also published by France Football on Friday.

Barcelona's teen sensation Pedri, Bayern Munich talent Jamal Musiala and England trio Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Mason Greenwood have all been nominated.

Jeremy Doku, Ryan Gravenberch, Nuno Mendes, Gio Reyna and Florian Wirtz complete the 10-man shortlist.

Meanwhile, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Ederson, Edouard Mendy, Thibaut Courtois, Kasper Schmeichel, Manuel Neuer, Emiliano Martinez, Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas and Samir Handanovic are in the running for the Yachine Trophy, which is awarded to the best goalkeeper of the year. 

Giorgio Chiellini is urging Juventus not to focus all of their attention on Romelu Lukaku when they face Chelsea on Wednesday, also highlighting the qualities of Jorginho, who he is backing to win this year's Ballon d'Or.

Juve made a winning start to their Champions League campaign two weeks ago with a 3-0 victory over Malmo, though they will expect a rather trickier challenge as Chelsea visit Turin on matchday two.

The contest will see Chiellini renew hostilities with Lukaku, their pair having enjoyed some bruising tussles during the Belgian's time in Serie A with Inter.

But the Chelsea player Chiellini seems to hold in the highest regard is Jorginho, a player he featured alongside as Italy won Euro 2020 earlier this year.

That success coupled with Chelsea's Champions League win in 2020-21 saw Jorginho win the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award in August, and Chiellini believes he deserves to add the Ballon d'Or to his collection as well.

Asked about the prospect of going up against Lukaku again, Chiellini said: "Lukaku is a great player, we will have to be careful.

"It will be important not to allow the qualities of champions like Lukaku to come out. He's a great player, whom they paid a lot for. He's not there by chance, but maybe it's a bit diminishing to talk about just the meeting of me and Lukaku – it's not just Lukaku.

"Chelsea have many champions: let's think of our great friend Jorginho, who is the 'lighthouse' of this team.

"I truly hope he can win the Ballon d'or because he's a good friend of mine and it's also an award that would feel like it's mine as an Italian and a player who was involved in the [Euro 2020] win."

Jorginho has not always had it easy at Chelsea, with many critics sceptical of his suitability to the club and English football in general, but Chiellini believes the fact he has outlasted both Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge is telling.

"I always thought he was a good player but after two or three sessions in the national team under [Roberto] Mancini, I realised just how good he is," Chiellini continued.

"What a top player he is. He maybe doesn't have great physical qualities, but the real difference is in his head, his mentality, and I was really happy because many said he could only play with Sarri.

"Instead, two other coaches arrived at Chelsea and then in the national team. Wherever he goes he plays as a regular, so I'm happy for him and he definitely deserves an award, so I truly hope he wins the Ballon d'Or."

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri was questioned on the form of his own midfielders, specifically Adrien Rabiot.

The Frenchman has only impressed in spells since joining from Paris Saint-Germain two years ago and Allegri clearly wants more – though he is adamant Rabiot has the capacity to improve.

"It's similar to [Federico] Bernardeschi," Allegri said. "The difference among players is when they come to Juve – if a big club chooses them, there's obviously a reason, but the difference in their career depends on mentality, their specific objective in helping the team and the capacity to improve, being determined in training sessions, scoring, defending.

"These are the elements that make the difference. How many good, technical players haven't been able to explode in their careers because maybe there was something missing?

"Rabiot is a player, if I was him, I'd be very angry with myself because he's a player who's been here two years, how many goals he scored? Ten [six] in two seasons? That's not acceptable. He needs to improve in order to get much better and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to do that this year."

Italy were held to a goalless draw by Switzerland at St. Jakob-Park in Sunday's World Cup qualifier as they extended their unbeaten run to 36 games and matched the all-time record.

The Azzurri equalled Spain's European mark with a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria earlier this week and are now level with Brazil's global record, set between 1993 and 1996.

But the point will be considered a disappointment by Roberto Mancini as Jorginho missed a penalty and the wasteful visitors squandered a number of other presentable opportunities.

The draw leaves Italy, who had scored in each of their previous 17 matches, top of Group C and four points better off than a Switzerland side with two games in hand to play.

Domenico Berardi was reinstated in Italy's starting line-up and wasted the best of the first-half chances when failing to beat Yann Sommer after being played clean through.

Lorenzo Insigne was denied from a free-kick by Sommer, who was also equal to a weak shot from Ciro Immobile after Manuel Akanji had glanced just over at the other end.

An annoyed Mancini's mood did not improve eight minutes into the second half as Jorginho's tame penalty, awarded for Ricardo Rodriguez's foul on Berardi, was easily saved by Sommer.

That was the first penalty Jorginho has missed for Italy at the sixth time of taking one, excluding shoot-outs, having missed one in the Euro 2020 final against England.

Mancini instantly turned to substitutes Federico Chiesa and Nicolo Zaniolo but Italy struggled to create many more openings, with Insigne not getting enough power behind his shot to beat Sommer from the best of those.

Jorginho has not yet received a contract offer to extend his stay at Chelsea as he targets playing for as long as possible.

The midfielder won the Champions League with Thomas Tuchel's side last term and then Euro 2020 with Italy, leading him to be named UEFA Men's Player of the Year.

His club and country double saw him become just the 10th player to achieve the feat of winning both competitions in the same year, though his long-term future at Chelsea remains unclear with two years left on his current deal.

"One thing at a time and in the end they come to terms," Jorginho told reporters on Tuesday, as he prepares to face Bulgaria, when asked if he could possibly see out his career at Stamford Bridge.

"On the contract, I say that I didn't have any offer and now I don't even think about it, honestly.

"But at 29 you already talk to me about finishing my career, but I want to play until 40. If they make me a ten-year contract, then yes."

Jorginho insisted his focus was on one game at a time, with Bulgaria, Switzerland and Lithuania all to come in World Cup qualifiers.

The 29-year-old was a standout performer for Italy at Euro 2020, leading the charts for recoveries (48) and interceptions (25) after carrying his Champions League form into June and July.

Jorginho's 484 successful passes were bettered only by Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644), as he created seven chances for his team-mates. Only international colleague Lorenzo Insigne (40) was involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 38.

With one individual award already under his belt, the former Napoli midfielder refused to be drawn on the Ballon d'Or race while also insisting Italy will now face a different challenge in the aftermath of their European Championship success.

"Now [it] becomes difficult, Italy is no longer a surprise," he continued. "It is in the place it deserves to be and all those who come to play against us will do it in a different way.

"After what we have done we are happy, but we must always remain humble.

"On the Ballon d'Or, I let you speak, I try to live in the moment. There are still a few months left for that decision and I think about the present, I want to enjoy this moment with those around me. We'll see what happens."

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