The Ballon d'Or is leading the charge into football's awards season for 2021.
With France Football revealing the 30 nominees for the top male prize, football fans are starting to brainstorm who out of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho might claim the accolade.
However, the debate surrounding the Ballon d'Or winner has been a well-trodden path in recent weeks, so we're diverting our attention to a similarly prestigious and annual celebration of football.
The best XI of 2021?
Come forth, the FIFA FIFPro World XI, which is arguably even harder to predict than the Ballon d'Or and 'The Best' awards with no less than 11 players in varying positions poised to be garlanded.
No longer are we just asking who the best male footballer of the year has been, but we're also breaking it down to the minutae of the finest right-back, goalkeeper, central midfielder and so on.
"OLE OUT NOW! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH" (RANT) (Football Terrace)
It's a tough ask, there's no doubt about it, but when has that ever stopped us here at GIVEMESPORT?
Yes, that's right, we're throwing our crystal ball and the bookmaker's odds out the window and drawing up who we consider to have been the best XI in 2021 ahead of FIFA's official selections.
Our FIFA FIFPro World XI
To do so, we're concocting a selection criteria cocktail of the players' individual brilliance in isolation compared to one another as well as the significance of their 2021 achievements and accolades.
Ultimately, though, the picks come down to the opinion of your humble writer. So, for better or for worse, be sure to check out my line-up for the 2021 FIFA FIFPro World XI down below:
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain)
A massive shoutout to Edouard Mendy, but when you take 2021 as a whole, it's hard to look past the Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament on the back of winning Serie A's Best Goalkeeper award.
RB: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain)
With a staggering eight goals, seven assists, 21 clean sheets and a Serie A winners' medal to his name in 2021, Hakimi has undoubtedly been the standout right-back of the year.
CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Lest we forget just how indomitable Dias was during the 2020/21 campaign with weekly Champions League masterclasses and Premier League brilliance that saw him named the division's best player.
CB: Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)
This was a really tough choice that ultimately came down to me valuing Marquinhos' class across the entirety of 2021 compared to Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci's Euro 2020 heroics.
Marquinhos has truly established himself as one of the world's best centre-backs in 2021, effortlessly filling Thiago Silva's boots at PSG despite only having the Coupe de France to his name.
LB: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Is Shaw the best left-back in the world? Probably not, but has there been a better left-back in 2021? Certainly not.
United's Players' Player of the Year strutted into the PFA Team of the Year after a fantastic 2020/21 campaign, before providing three assists at Euro 2020 and scoring a brilliant goal in the final.
CM: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
A conveyor belt of herculean performances in the Champions League last season, including a Man of the Match display in the final, rightfully catapulted Kante into Ballon d'Or contention.
CM: Jorginho (Chelsea)
The big winner of 2021, Jorginho triumphed in the Champions League, Euro 2020 and UEFA Super Cup this year and make no mistake that his individual displays on the way to doing so were superb.
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Controversial? Almost certainly and Kevin De Bruyne came mightily close to getting nod after winning the Premier League, PFA Players' Player of the Year prize and generally being excellent.
However, I just felt as though Fernandes had a better year on an individual level with an insane 38 Premier League goal contributions last season, as well as six already in 2021/22, outweighing United's trophy drought.
FW: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Twenty-three goals for Barcelona and PSG in 2021 isn't a bad place to start, but it's Messi's inspirational impact at the Copa America as both the best player and top scorer that really cements his place.
ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Duh. Who else could possibly lead the line other than the European Golden Shoe holder with more goals in 2021 than any other 'top five' league striker and 15 goals in just 11 games this season?
FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Erling Braut Haaland and Karim Benzema can probably count themselves as unlucky here and we're under no illusion that selecting Ronaldo is a universally-agreed-upon approach.
However, Ronaldo has one crucial thing that his rivals don't have this year: a Golden Boot from a 'top five' European league. Throw in the Euro 2020 Golden Boot for good measure and Ronaldo takes our final slot.
Bring on the controversy and debate
Wowsers, there has just been so much quality across 2021, hasn't there? It felt so wrong to leave everyone from Mendy to Joshua Kimmich and De Bruyne to Romelu Lukaku on the bench.
However, that's the joy of the FIFA FIFPro World XI because there is only room for one player in some positions and it's not necessarily down to overall quality, but their output in that particular year.
And that's exactly why there are no right or wrong answers within reason, so it's only inevitable that both my own selections and the incoming picks of FIFA will leave you cold in one way or another.
Fear not, though, dear reader, because we'd be fascinated to learn about your own FIFA FIFPro World XI for 2021 and you can let us know in the comment sections of our various social channels.News Now - Sport News