Ballon d'Or: Best XI of snubbed players, featuring Man Utd, Chelsea and PSG stars

  • Kobe Tong

The Ballon d’Or nominations for 2021 have sparked plenty of debate.

With France Football’s premier prize making its long-awaited return this year, supporters were on tenterhooks to find out which 30 male players would be in contention for Lionel Messi‘s trophy.

It feels like an eternity ago that the Barcelona legend ousted Virgil van Dijk for the 2019 edition and we now have a much clearer idea of the players who stand in his way of retaining the title.

Ballon d’Or nominees

Besides, although a 30-man shortlist might sound like a widely-cast net of nominees, there have been so many fantastic performers across 2021 that some top players have already dropped out.

You only need to look in the comments section of any post about the Ballon d’Or nominees to see that certain omissions and exclusions had football fans stabbing away at their keyboard.

And fear not, ladies and gentlemen, because we’ve been listening to your complaints and decided to take a closer look at some of the more contentious oversights amongst the provisional picks.

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Controversial omissions? 

From a Champions League-winning goalkeeper to arguably the world’s best midfielder, there are more than a few players who can count themselves as unlucky not to be in Ballon d’Or contention.

In fact, ‘more than a few players’ to the extent that we’ve been able to draw up a remarkably strong XI of players who missed out on a Ballon d’Or nod – and there are some scandalous snubs amongst it.

It’s important to note that we’re not suggesting that all 11 of these players should have been given a Ballon d’Or nomination, but they are – in my opinion – the stars in each position who came closest.

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Best XI of Ballon d’Or snubs

That being said, there are undoubtedly a handful of top performers within the line-up that surely should have been included in the 30-man shortlist, so be sure to check out who we picked below:

GK: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)

Arguably the most egregious oversight of all, the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Season was forced to settle for a Yashin Trophy nomination despite racking up 16 Premier League clean sheets in his first season at Chelsea.


RB: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain)

Eight goals, seven assists, 21 clean sheets and a Serie A winners’ medal is an outrageous resumé for a full-back in the space of just 10 months, so Hakimi definitely has a valid argument that he should have been nominated.

CB: Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)

Granted, this is probably one of our biggest reaches, but rest assured that Marquinhos staked a strong claim as the world’s most underrated centre-back in 2021 and even bagged three Champions League goals to boot.


CB: Milan Škriniar (Inter Milan)

Something just seems wrong about an Inter defender not getting the nod on the back of a season where they conceded just 35 goals, amassed 91 points and marshalled 15 clean sheets to win the Scudetto.

LB: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

Roll your eyes as much as you like, but Shaw is the best left-back candidate having earned a spot in the PFA Team of the Year, won United‘s Players’ Player of the Year award, provided three assists at Euro 2020 and scored in the final. 


CM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Simply put, we wouldn’t blame you for naming Kimmich as the world’s best midfielder because the infinitely-versatile Bayern star is never far away from a masterclass and got his hands on four pieces of silverware in 2020/21.

CM: Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)

A reliably metronomic presence in both PSG and Italy’s midfield, Verratti was one of the overlooked protagonists behind his nation’s Euro 2020 triumph and surely a more worthy nominee than Luka Modric.


AM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

It’s shocking that Muller was snubbed from the nominees because none of the shortlisted players boast more assists in 2021 than the Bayern star’s astonishing record of 21. He’s also notched 11 goals this calendar year.

RW: Federico Chiesa (Juventus)

Another nomination clanger with Chiesa shining on the way to Euro 2020 glory, scoring 17 goals and providing seven assists since the turn of the year and dropping a Man of the Match display in the Coppa Italia final.


ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Would this have been generous? Probably, but Immobile is the finest striker to have been snubbed and has actually found the net more in club football this year than nominees Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku.

LW: Jadon Sancho (Manchester United)

Whaaaat?! While a quiet Euro 2020 and slow start at United might make you think that we’ve lost the plot, lest we forget that Sancho boasts an unreal 12 goals and 12 assists in 2021 – and scored twice in the DFB-Pokal final.


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Who should have been nominated?

Should Sancho, Immobile and Hakimi have been given a Ballon d’Or nod at all costs? Probably not, but the moral of the story is that every player in the starting XI had a legitimate argument for one.

However, it does seem a particularly woeful oversight that Mendy, Kimmich and Chiesa have been left on the cutting room floor when Martinez and Phil Foden have been rather generously included.

At the end of the day, though, we can’t split too many hairs about the lower ranks of the Ballon d’Or nominees because let’s face it, none of the players mentioned here would actually win the trophy.


That’s not an insult, by the way; it just happens that Messi, Jorginho and Robert Lewandowski have such strong claims for the silverware that it’s starting to feel like a three-horse race. Bring it on.



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