Will Lionel Messi Win Another Ballon d’Or in 2021?

Now that he has finally led Argentina to a major title for the first time in his career, Lionel Messi has won just about everything. While the 34-year-old will have his sights firmly set on winning a World Cup for the first time next year, Messi will have another chance to add to his impressive trophy case beforehand. Later this year, the living legend will have a chance to become the first player in history to win Ballon d’Or for the seventh time.

The Ballon d’Or is the award given to the world’s best soccer player every year. Messi and his longtime archrival, Cristiano Ronaldo, have completely dominated the award over the last decade. Since 2008, when Ronaldo won it for the first time, the two players have combined to win the award 11 of the 12 times it has been handed out. The lone exception was when Luka Modric claimed the 2018 Ballon d’Or after leading Croatia to a surprise appearance in the World Cup Final.

Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unveiled odds for the 2021 Ballon d’Or for the first time earlier this week. In news that should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Messi and Ronaldo are listed as the early betting favorites. Can Messi add to his existing record of six trophies? Or will Ronaldo pull into a tie with a sixth Ballon d’Or of his own? The full odds from soccer betting sites are listed below:

Lionel Messi (-250)
Cristiano Ronaldo (+700)
Robert Lewandowski (+700)
N’Golo Kante (+800)
Harry Kane (+900)
Raheem Sterling (+1100)
Jorginho (+1400)
Kevin de Bruyne (+1600)
Neymar (+2000)
Ciro Immobile (+2500)
Romelu Lukaku (+2500)
Kylian Mbappe (+3300)
Ruben Dias (+4000)
Erling Haaland (+5000)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (+5000)
Mo Salah (+5000)
Luis Suarez (+5000)

Up-and-Down Year for Messi

While Messi finally got the monkey off his back by leading Argentina to a victory in this summer’s Copa America, it hasn’t been a particularly easy year for the GOAT. The longtime Barcelona standout has spent most of the last year wondering whether he would even remain a Barcelona player beyond this summer.

Last year, Messi sparked countless rumors when he vocalized his displeasure with regard to the direction of the club. Barcelona proceeded to choke away a late lead in the La Liga standings for a second consecutive season, while the Blaugrana once again bowed out early in the Champions League.

For his part, Messi was as elite as ever. Despite his advanced age, Messi still finished the La Liga campaign with a team-high 30 goals. He added another eight across Champions League and Copa Del Rey play, for good measure. Messi set club records for both goals and appearances for Barcelona last term, but team success eluded the club. Barca did win Copa Del Rey, but a third-place finish in La Liga was a supremely disappointing result for one of the biggest clubs on earth.

This post by Lionel Messi is now officially the most liked sport picture on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/DsavmFgLia

— Stan (@FutbolStan_) July 14, 2021

That said, Messi’s overall numbers still trounce those of the vast majority of his fellow contenders. The fact that he can endure a “down season” and still finish with close to 40 goals just speaks to the fact that we likely take his greatness for granted. In addition to his six Ballon d’Or wins, Messi has also finished second in the voting another five times. The -250 odds don’t bring much upside, but he’s as good of a bet as anyone to win it yet again.

Fade Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is two years Messi’s senior, but he’s another ageless wonder still putting up huge numbers. Ronaldo may no longer be in his prime, but he is still one of the most lethal goalscorers on the planet. The Portuguese star bagged another 29 goals in Serie A play for Juventus before adding five more goals for Portugal in the 2020 Euros. In the process, Ronaldo broke Michel Platini’s long-standing record for most career goals at the European Championships (11).

Ronaldo scored his 100th goal in his 131st appearance for Juventus back in May, but Juve’s long streak of Serie A titles was snapped. Juve finished a disappointing fourth in the Italian top-flight behind Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Atalanta. That stopped Juventus’ streak of nine consecutive Serie A titles. Juve did win Coppa Italia, though, and Ronaldo’s 29 goals were enough to earn him Capocannoniere honors as Italy’s top goalscorer.

One year ago today, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score 50+ goals in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A 💥 pic.twitter.com/B413VbC7I6

— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 20, 2021

The lack of team success both in the league and in the Euros will likely cost Ronaldo in his quest to match Messi’s Ballon d’Or total, however. Portugal emerged from the “Group of Death” at the Euros before falling to Belgium in the first round of the knockout stages.

We can find better betting values than Ronaldo at +700. Fade Cristiano to take home this award this year.

Jorginho an Intriguing Long Shot

Chelsea capped a rather unremarkable Premier League season in grand fashion when they upset a heavily-favored Manchester City side in the Champion League Final. A first-half goal from Kai Havertz proved to be the difference in Chelsea’s 1-0 triumph over Pep Guardiola’s side.

Jorginho (+1400) didn’t receive as much attention for his exploits as fellow midfielder N’Golo Kante (+800), but the Italian did put together a very solid campaign. Jorginho actually led Chelsea in Premier League goals with seven, all coming from the penalty spot. The 28-year-old added an assist in the league, as well, while supplying his usual stellar work rate defensively.

Tbh Jorginho deserves to win Ballon D'or just like Modric did in 2018 !! pic.twitter.com/VTIe4ye0kJ

— MC (@MatCrews19) July 19, 2021

Jorginho was also a key player in the Italian side that won the Euros. He scored the penalty kick in the semifinals that vaulted Italy past Spain and into the final. While his penalty kick in the final round was saved by Jordan Pickford, Jorginho still finished the Euros with the most ground covered by any player (86.6 km) and completed the second-most passes of any player in the event.

Winning two major trophies in the span of barely over a month is something that could get Jorginho some recognition when it comes to winning Ballon d’Or. He’s not the most likely winner, but a stab at his current +1400 odds makes plenty of sense.

Lewandowski’s Impressive Numbers

Robert Lewandowski and Poland didn’t make much noise at the Euros, but nobody can question the Polish striker’s immense impact at the club level. Lewandowski clearly would have won this award last year if it had been handed out after leading Bayern Munich to wins in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, and Champions League.

Bayern came up short in their quest to repeat as European champions, but Lewandowski was up to his usual tricks in yet another Bundesliga-winning season for the German giants. The former Borussia Dortmund star man scored a career-high 41 goals in league play, which broke Gerd Muller’s longtime record for the most goals scored by a single player in a German top-flight campaign. That came on the heels of a 34-goal showing the year prior in domestic competition.

Lewandowski claimed the European Golden Shoe, which is handed out to the top goalscorer in all of Europe. The 32-year-old has now remarkably scored 203 goals in 219 games since arriving at Bayern back in 2014. Given the fact that his team enjoyed much more success over the past year, I like Lewandowski quite a bit more than Ronaldo to win Ballon d’Or at the same +700 odds.

Long-Shot Fliers to Consider

N’Golo Kante and France bowed out of the Euros shockingly early, but the decorated midfielder added another big-time trophy to his mantle by leading Chelsea to its aforementioned Champions League triumph. Kante has become the best defensive midfielder in the world since leading Leicester City to its improbable Premier League title in 2016. His +800 odds give him the best chances of any Chelsea player to win Ballon d’Or this year, but I’d rather take the extra value on Jorginho (+1400) after Italy’s win in the Euros.

Harry Kane (+900) would have been a much more compelling bet had England brought it home at the Euros earlier this month. While the Spurs striker did his part in getting the Three Lions to the final, Kane’s lack of team trophies is going to cost him the Ballon d’Or.

Nobody doubts Kane’s merits for the award based on individual performance, but Tottenham just finished another dismal campaign.

Raheem Sterling (+1100) was another impressive performer for England, but he found his way to the fringes of Pep Guardiola’s squad rotation for Manchester City as last season progressed. Kevin de Bruyne (+1600) and Neymar (+2000) were in-and-out of the lineup for their respective clubs due to injuries all year long, while Ciro Immobile (+2500) played poorly at the Euros despite Italy’s win.

The Bet

At this point, I simply don’t know how you can bet against Lionel Messi. I would have been a lot more bearish on his Ballon d’Or chances had Argentina come up short in Copa America yet again, but, in the end, that victory may have sealed the deal in his favor for this prop betting opportunity. Lewandowski (+700) and Jorginho (+1400) look like compelling contenders to consider, but this award is Messi’s to lose. Take Messi at -250 to win his seventh Ballon d’Or later this year.

Another Ballon d'Or loading for Lionel Messi? 💭🏆 pic.twitter.com/H4QUfoEnqM

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 20, 2021

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