The Ballon d'Or is now only a few days away from making its long-awaited return.
It feels like an eternity ago that Lionel Messi lifted up the famous golden trophy for the sixth time with the COVID-19 pandemic having forced France Football into scrapping the 2020 iteration.
However, football's most coveted individual prize will get back underway on November 29 with Messi, Jorginho and Robert Lewandowski emerging as the leading male candidates for victory.
Ballon d'Or makes a return
Everyone has their own opinion on who should be crowned the finest male footballer of 2021, but what shouldn't be underestimated is just how significant it will prove to be for the eventual winner.
Besides, you only have to look at the never-ending Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo debate to see how Ballon d'Or triumphs, as well as the amount of them, can greatly influence footballing legacies.
And although it's well-known that Messi has been garlanded the most by France Football, the players who have been nominated most often since its 1956 inception is far less spoken about.
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Most nominations in history
Sure, racking up a record number of nominations doesn't compete with winning the trophy itself, but it is nonetheless a fascinating indicator of the most consistently brilliant players over the years.
And ahead of the 2021 edition, Spanish publication AS have done the maths and revealed the eight players who have been in the running most often to win the Ballon d'Or - and it's simply fascinating.
We're not just saying that either because would you believe us if we said that three of the eight players haven't actually won the award before? Uh huh, be prepared for a few surprises.
Players with most Ballon d'Or nominations
However, there are no guesses for which two footballing superstars take the top places and you can check out just how much they overwhelm the opposition by perusing the statistics below:
8. Zinedine Zidane - 11
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 11
6. Gianluigi Buffon - 11
5. Franz Beckenbauer - 12
4. Johan Cruyff - 12
3. Paolo Maldini - 13
2. Lionel Messi - 15
1. Cristiano Ronaldo - 17
Ronaldo's remarkable longevity
So, interestingly, Messi might not finish his career as the player with the most Ballon d'Or nominations in history even if he does indeed win the trophy more than anybody else before him.
And that fact alone really goes to show that Ronaldo's longevity in the game borders on unbeatable with his dedication to training and hard work making him a fine physical specimen at 36 years old.
It seems impossible for the Manchester United star to bag himself the prize this year, but if he keeps pumping the iron and avoiding injuries, then he could at least top Messi in one Ballon d'Or ranking.
As for Maldini getting 13 nominations without a single win... well, there's just no defending that.News Now - Sport News