The golden boys!
French newspaper L’Equipe are predicting Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar will struggle for votes in pursuit of his first Ballon d’Or award - with five players picked out ahead of him.
The prestigious Ballon d’Or awards were cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but will return to Paris this winter at the Theatre du Chatelet on November 29.
But the newspaper do not expect one of Paris’s Brazilian stars to be hoisting the individual prize, instead picking out Jorginho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi as the five potential winners.
Manchester City’s Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne, as well as England pair Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, all could push Neymar ‘far enough in the standings,’ according to the paper.
The quintet adorned L’Equipe’s front cover on Tuesday morning and credible cases can be made for all with Messi a Copa America champion, Jorginho lifting the Champions League with Chelsea and the Euros with Italy, Benzema and Lewandowski jockeying to be the best No 9 in the world and Ronaldo leaving Juventus as the top scorer in Italy.
L’Equipe narrowed it down further by backing Messi, now of PSG, Benzema and Lewandowski as the most likely three.
Frenchman Benzema is believed to be peaking at the perfect time for voters having played a key role in clinching the UEFA Nations League title for France. He is also a leading light in what is a struggling Real Madrid side.
Bayern Munich star Lewandowski was widely seen as a clear frontrunner last season, only to have the awards ceremony axed amid the pandemic.
The Pole was in a league of his own throughout 2019-20 and finished with 55 goals across all competitions, leading to him winning the FIFA Best Men’s award.
Lewandowski swallowed his disappointment to bag a further 41 goals in 2020-21 - beating Gerd Muller’s single season league record - as he claimed the first European Golden Boot of his career.
Despite only counting the Bundesliga as a major title last season, he remains one of the clear frontrunners since Messi last won the award in 2019, his sixth overall Ballon d’Or.
Fourteen players from the Premier League earned nominations - but only Jorginho has been given a shot at winning by L’Equipe.
They include: Cesar Azpilicueta, Kevin De Bruyne, Ronaldo, Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Bruno Fernandes, Jorginho, Harry Kane, N’Golo Kante, Romelu Lukaku, Riyad Mahrez, Mason Mount, Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling. - Daily Mail