Ronaldo, Messi, Lewandowski: The world's best XI in 2021 as voted for by football fans

  • Kobe Tong

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and countless other world-class stars are reaching the end of an incredible 2021.

Football fans, pundits and experts around the world always look back in reflection at the end of each year to cast their judgement on who the best performers of the last 12 months have been.

We're just a few weeks away from finding out the latest Ballon d'Or winner and we'll be unveiling our own top 100 before the year is out, but the annual awards are already starting to crop up.

Top 50 male players of 2021 ranked

In fact, Goal let the fans do the talking by ranking the top 50 male footballers of the year in a huge poll that saw Messi and Ronaldo separated by just 24 votes out of more than 14 million in total.

For the record, it was the Paris Saint-Germain superstar who took top spot - you can check out our recounting of the full list here - with Lewandowski rounding off the podium with a bronze medal.

However, seeing as it's not everyday that over 10 million supporters cast their votes on one huge footballing ranking, we couldn't resist looking at the results from another angle as well.

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Who came top in each position?

Besides, with individual awards almost always being unfairly weighted towards offensive players, we wanted to take a closer look at which players came out on top in their respective positions.

As such, we have drawn up the best male XI of 2021 based on the Goal50 results - and thus fan votes - by revealing the highest-ranking goalkeeper, right-back, centre-backs and so forth.

We're going with a 4-3-3 formation and not getting too hung up on how balanced the team would actually be in a game because, well, let's just say that the attacking options bordered on insanity.

Best 2021 XI by fan vote

However, enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping, because the line-up really is something to behold and you can check it out down below:

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Club(s): AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain

Overall position: 19th


RB: Achraf Hakimi

Club(s): Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain

Overall position: 21st

CB: Ruben Dias

Club(s): Manchester City

Overall position: 29th


CB: Giorgio Chiellini

Club(s): Juventus

Overall position: 30th

LB: Luke Shaw

Club(s): Manchester United

Overall position: 43rd


CM: N'Golo Kante

Club(s): Chelsea

Overall position: 8th

CM: Kevin De Bruyne

Club(s): Manchester City

Overall position: 9th


CM: Bruno Fernandes

Club(s): Manchester United

Overall position: 14th

RF: Lionel Messi 

Club(s): Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain

Overall position: 1st


ST: Robert Lewandowski

Club(s): Bayern Munich

Overall position: 3rd

LF: Cristiano Ronaldo

Club(s): Juventus and Manchester United

Overall position: 2nd


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A staggeringly good team

Can you just imagine a front three of Messi, Ronaldo and Lewandowski?! Absolutely incredible.

Now, it might raise a few eyebrows that three United players have made the cut when you consider that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under fire as the club lanuguishes in sixth place in the Premier League.

However, it's easy to forget just how lucrative Fernandes has been for goals and assists this year, while Shaw has certainly been the 2021's top left-back even if he isn't the world's best in the position overall.


Meanwhile, it's perhaps surprising to see that three midfielders make the cut ahead of Jorginho when his Champions League and Euro 2020 triumphs are seeing him tipped to win the Ballon d'Or.

But it's pretty hard to argue with Kante and De Bruyne making the cut based on their superhuman displays in Europe and the Premier League respectively at the back end of the 2020/21 campaign.

The same can be said for Hakimi and Dias, too, while Donnarumma and Chiellini are boosted by their superb Euro 2020 campaigns; rounding off a more than worthy line-up to celebrate the past year.



No doubt there will be some conflicting opinions and desired changes, but that's the beauty of football and there are still a few weeks left for players to really put their stamp on 2021. Game on.

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