The Ballon d'Or is set to make a long-awaited return this year.
Ballon d'Or set for return
The global situation meant that the famous plaque was put on ice in 2020, though we might as well say that Robert Lewandowski won the gong by way of being the unnamed top performer of the year.
However, regardless of the politics behind the prize, football fans can rest assured that the world is gradually returning to normal and the contenders for the 2021 version are looking clearer than ever.
Varane to Man Utd "Total Agreement" (Football Terrace)
2021 Ballon d'Or
Now that most of the summer's international tournaments have concluded, there are almost no instances in which potential nominees can bolster their argument with any more major honours.
As such, barring an epic surge in form from the one of the frontrunners once the season restarts, most of the key details that will inform the 2021 Ballon d'Or race have already been banked.
And that's reason enough for us to crack open our classic format of Tiermaker to assess the main contenders, ranking them into sections ranging from 'absolutely no chance' to 'deserving winner'.
In order to choose the prospective nominees, we've turned to the bookmakers and the 14 players considered by SkyBet to have better odds than 50/1 for being named the Ballon d'Or winner.
From that point onwards, we're ranking the players based on how realistic your humble writer thinks it is that each player will be standing in front of the world with that famous trophy in their hands.
So, yes, there is a large element of opinion involved - be sure to let us know your own across our social media channels - and we can by no means predict the verdicts of hundreds of journalists, players and coaches.
Ranking Ballon d'Or contenders
But housekeeping and disclaimers aside, let's jump into the action with our ranking of the leading contenders to be crowned the world's best footballer in 2021.
Absolutely no chance
Mason Mount, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Neymar
If any of these players win the Ballon d'Or this year then I'll get a tattoo of their initials. Take your screenshots now because it's simply not going to happen.
Mount, Immobile and Insigne have all enjoyed really strong years, but they have almost certainly been inordinately pulled up the bookies' rankings by winning the Champions League or Euro 2020.
As for Neymar, coming up short in the Copa America final was the final nail in the coffin for his Ballon d'Or chances on the back of losing the Ligue 1 crown and scoring just nine league goals.
Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne
Are some of these players higher up because they are bigger names? Yes, absolutely, but don't pretend as though that doesn't subconsciously play on the minds of Ballon d'Or voters.
That being said, this is only a tiny leap up from the last tier with Sterling's sole line of argument being his stellar Euro 2020, while Mbappe's poor showing at the same tournament undercuts his own pitch.
Kane will only go so far having not won a single team trophy, which is more important than we'd all care to admit in this individual prize, while losing the Champions League final will hold back De Bruyne.
Cristiano Ronaldo, N'Golo Kante and Romelu Lukaku
Ronaldo places highly because, well, he's Ronaldo and just look at how much Ballon d'Or voters love him. In seriousness, though, bagging the Euro 2020 Golden Boot and matching Ali Daei's world record gives him a 2% chance.
Fans got a little overexcited about Kante's Ballon d'Or chances because although his astonishing Champions League-winning performances will take him far, they won't win him the top prize alone.
And although Lukaku can count himself a little lucky to join this tier, we like to think there's at least a smidgen of footballing justice in the Ballon d'Or on the back of his outrageous displays for Belgium and Inter Milan.
Jorginho and Robert Lewandowski
Look, the Ballon d'Or has a lot to do with which players are winning the biggest trophies of all, so we'd be mad not to fancy Jorginho's chances on the back of Champions League and Euro 2020 glory.
And in many ways, Lewandowski has the clout of being the top contender on the back of the 2020/21 league seasons having scored a barely-comprehensible 48 games in just 40 appearances.
However, everything being said, Messi takes top spot both in terms of who I think has been the world's best player this year personally, but also in terms of who I think will genuinely win the title.
Finally bagging his first international title and winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot equivalents along the way were the final, GOAT-like boost needed to raise Messi's already alien 2021.
Besides, lest we forget that Messi finished the domestic season by winning an umpteenth Pichichi award with Barcelona and scoring a Puskas Award contender in the Copa del Rey final.
Messi is the deserving winner
Yes, that's right, we're foreseeing a world where Messi will move even further clear of Ronaldo by way of having a record-breaking seven Ballon d'Or trophies to his name.
Interestingly, that just happens to be the number of Ballon d'Or plaques that were attributed to Pele when France Football retrospectively looked at how their previous rules affected former winners.
In other words, even if you're using the harshest criteria of all, Messi would - at the very least - become the joint-greatest player of all time as far as the sport's top award is concerned.News Now - Sport News