With France Football having taken a coronavirus-enforced break in 2020, anticipation is building ahead of the next awarding of a Golden Ball
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski are among the nominees on the 30-man 2021 Ballon d’Or longlist to have been released by France Football.
Other superstar performers to get the nod include Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Romelu Lukaku.
A Golden Ball heading in the direction of any of those mentioned above would come as no surprise, but the likes of Euro 2020 winner Jorginho and his Chelsea team-mate N’Golo Kante also have their sights set on a shock win.
Who is in contention for the 2021 Ballon d’Or?
Kevin De Bruyne
When will the 2021 winner be revealed?
Now that a 30-man list of top performers from the last 12 months has been compiled, the voting process can begin.
A selection of international journalists, national team coaches and captains will be polled to determine the winner, with each voter being asked to pick out their top five.
Once that process has been completed, the prestigious prize will be handed out at a glitzy ceremony in Paris on November 29.
With France Football being forced to take a coronavirus-enforced break from Ballon d’Or duty in 2020, the current holders of the men’s and women’s gongs have reigned for two years.
Argentine superstar Messi was the last man to land the male award back in 2019, with the iconic South American claiming top prize for a record-breaking sixth time.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski missed out on succeeding the now Paris Saint-Germain forward despite enjoying a remarkable run in front of goal last year – with the prolific Pole having to make do with a FIFA Best award.
Messi and his eternal rival Ronaldo have shared 11 of the last 12 Ballons d’Or between them, with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric the only man to have broken their duopoly in 2018.
Among the other notable names to have taken first prize in the past are Kaka, Fabio Cannavaro, Ronaldinho, Michael Owen, Luis Figo, Zineidine Zidane, Ronaldo, George Weah, Marco van Basten, Roberto Baggio, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, George Best, Bobby Charlton, Lev Yashin, Alfredo Di Stefano and Stanley Matthews.
The current holder of the women’s award is USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, with England’s Lucy Bronze finishing as runner-up in 2019.
The inaugural winner of the female Golden Ball back in 2018 was Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg, who has just returned to action with Lyon after 21 months stuck on the sidelines through injury.
Who is in contention for the 2021 Ballon d’Or Feminin?
France Football also released 20 nominees for the women's award, with superstars like Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, and Vivianne Miedema making the list.
Rapinoe was not nominated this time around, though her international team-mate Sam Mewis did make the list as the only American nominee.
Alexia Putellas, who won this year's UEFA Women's Player of the Year award is on the list, as well as three major contributors for Canada's Olympic gold medal winners: Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence and Christine Sinclair.
France Football announced 10-man shortlists for two further awards: the Kopa Trophy, given to the best performing player under the age of 21, and the Yashin Trophy, given to the best goalkeeper.