The Ballon d'Or is officially back.
As reported by Marca, the prestigious prize will be making its long-awaited return after the decision was made not to hold a ceremony in 2020 due to the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many, France Football's premier plaque is the ultimate accolade for individual performance in world football and will go a long away towards settling the GOAT (greatest of all-time) debate.
Ballon d'Or makes its return
And with almost two years having passed since Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or trophy, the footballing world will be on tenterhooks to see who lifts that golden football on November 29.
However, let's be honest with ourselves because although the Ballon d'Or is meant to reward performance across the entire calendar year, it certainly has a history of favouring trophy winners.
That's not necessarily a criticism, by the way, but it tends to mean that the state of play between leading contenders is decided long before the second season of the year gets underway.
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Or to put things simply, it doesn't really matter what players like Messi and Jorginho do at the start of the 2021/22 campaign because their case for Ballon d'Or glory is already locked in for the year.
30-man shortlist coming soon
Nevertheless, with the shortlist of 30 male players reportedly going public in just a matter of days, we wanted to give football fans a peak behind the curtain of the Ballon d'Or's leading contenders.
To do so, we're turning to the bookmakers to see who they consider to be most likely to be named the best male player in the world.
Favourites for Ballon d'Or glory
The odds from SkyBet are correct at the time of writing and we have listed their top 28 candidates, so you can not only suss out the potential winner but also who might be named on the shortlist.
Got it? Ok then, let's take a look into the bookies' crystal ball with the 28 players most likely to be named the winner of the 2021 Ballon d'Or - probably, maybe - down below:
=26. Thiago Silva (Chelsea) - 150/1
=26. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) - 150/1
=26. Jadon Sancho (Manchester United) - 150/1
=24. Phil Foden (Manchester City) - 100/1
=24. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus) - 100/1
=21. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) - 80/1
=21. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid) - 80/1
=21. Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli) - 80/1
=19. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain) - 66/1
=19. Ruben Dias (Manchester City) - 66/1
=15. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) - 50/1
=15. Erling Braut Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) - 50/1
=15. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus) - 50/1
=15. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) - 50/1
=11. Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) - 40/1
=11. Mason Mount (Chelsea) - 40/1
=11. Jack Grealish (Manchester City) - 40/1
=11. Ciro Immobile (Lazio) - 40/1
=9. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) - 33/1
=9. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain) - 33/1
8. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) - 25/1
=6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) - 16/1
=6. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) - 16/1
=4. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) - 12/1
=4. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) - 12/1
3. Jorginho (Chelsea) - 6/1
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) - 5/1
1. Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain) - 1/2
Messi on course for No. 7
So, there you have it, Messi is in pole position with SkyBet to win his seventh Ballon d'Or title and move into what would surely be an unassailable lead above Ronaldo's respective total of five.
Despite his slow start to life at PSG, the Argentine superstar finished his Barcelona career with an avalanche of goals and assists before winning his first international trophy with Copa America glory.
Lewandowski certainly has the individual output to contend with Messi, but perhaps not the same calibre of trophies, while Jorginho faces the opposite problem despite his European successes.
It's certainly surprising to see Salah place quite so low and considering he's probably the best player in the world on current form, there's no way that Grealish and Neymar should be ahead of him.
Meanwhile, it's clear that SkyBet are really focusing on who won the top trophies this year because Immobile and Chiellini have probably been a little overrated due to their Euro 2020 triumph.
Overall, there's no denying that it makes for an intriguing peak at what the Ballon d'Or shortlist might look like and it's not long now until we'll soon know for certain which players have made the cut.
It will be fascinating to see which outsiders populate the lower ends of the 30-man shortlist, but you'll forgive us for thinking that it won't be very Messy at the top. I'll see myself out...News Now - Sport News