Bookies move Robert Lewandowski ahead of Lionel Messi in the race for the Ballon d’Or

The Ballon d’Or returns later this month with the bookmakers predicting a new name to take home the coveted award.

Dating from 1956, the Ballon d'Or is the Holy Grail when it comes to the game's individual awards.

Last year, the annual ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19 and as a result, we didn't get a winner.

This year though, the pageantry returns with a ceremony scheduled to take place in Paris on November 29.

Here are the main contenders for the 2021 award…

Robert Lewandowski 8/15 (Fav)

Lionel Messi 11/8

Mohamed Salah 14/1

Jorginho 25/1

Cristiano Ronaldo 40/1

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich celebrates after scoring during the German Supercup football match against Borussia Dortmund in Dortmund

Is it time for Robert Lewandowski to get justice?

Last year, the Pole looked nailed on to win the award after scoring 55 goals in 47 games during Bayern Munich's treble-winning campaign.

Instead of becoming the first Polish player to win the famous trophy, Lewy was left empty-handed as the annual ceremony was scrubbed.

Another year has passed and the goals keep on flowing. The striker smashed Gerd Muller's Bundesliga goalscoring record, finding the net 41 times in a season.

Munich's Robert Lewandowski (l) and Leon Goretzka celebrate

The Pole has also kicked off the current season in the same ruthless fashion, scoring 22 goals from 16 games.

If that wasn't enough, Lewy marked his 100th Champions League appearance by bagging a hat-trick against Benfica last Tuesday. The goals made him this season's top scorer in the competition with eight, while his total goal haul in Europe is now 81 - the same amount as Tottenham Hotspur.

The one thing which could set him back, however, was a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign. Poland failed to get out of their group, finishing bottom with two points to their name.

Though it must also be noted that Lewy still managed to score three goals over the course of the three group games.

Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi poses with the trophies during the Ballon d'Or 2019 awards ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris

Lionel Messi has endured a roller-coaster year, but does he deserve to claim his seventh Ballon d'Or?

The player has recently been overtaken by Robert Lewandowski in the betting market after a slow start to life at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has scored three goals in eight appearances for the Parisians, including an effort against Manchester City in the Champions League. However, those highs have also been met by lows such as being subbed at half-time against Lille OSC last weekend.

Despite this, his time at Barcelona earlier in the year will also be taken into consideration.

In his final season at Camp Nou, the 34-year-old helped a weakened Barca team to a third-place finish in La Liga and a Copa del Rey triumph.

Lionel Messi of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) during a training session before the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint Germain vs Leipzig at the Parc des Princes on October 19, 2021 in Paris France.

His haul of 38 goals and 14 assists across 52 games was monumental.

Nonetheless, it's his international achievements which put Messi in the running for the award.

During the summer, the forward picked up his first major international honour as Argentina ended a 28-year Copa America drought.

The player was an integral part of that title-winning side, scoring four goals (joint-most) and producing five assists during the tournament.

Many had previously argued that Messi's legacy couldn't be truly fulfilled without an international triumph. The 34-year-old has now silenced those doubters as he eyes another Ballon d'Or.

Mohamed Salah

MOHAMED SALAH of Liverpool FC celebrating after scoring during the Champions League football match between Atletico de Madrid and Liverpool FC.

Liverpool's superstar Mohamed Salah has put his name firmly in the hat to be awarded the 2021 Ballon d'Or following his incredible performances this season.

With only a month until the award is handed out, Salah seems to be hitting form at just the right time of year.

After bagging a hat-trick against old rivals Manchester United in Liverpool's recent 5-0 win, Salah has seen his Ballon d'Or odds cut from 16/1 to 14/1.

His display at Old Trafford was only a glimpse of what he has been doing all year.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (second left) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Elland Road

In ten Premier League starts this season, he has averaged a goal-a-game having found the net on 10 occasions.

What's more, the 'Egyptian King' has only failed to score in two league games while also bagging five efforts in three Champions League outings.

Overall, Salah has 29 goals and eight assists in 2021, with 15 of his goals coming in this current season.

Jorginho

Jorginho warns Chelsea not to think job is done against Porto

As a defensive midfielder, a lot of his work may go unnoticed. But don't be quick to dismiss the 29-year-old.

After claiming UEFA's Player of the Year award, the price of 25/1 on the Italian to win the Ballon d'Or certainly offers decent value.

Jorginho's first major success of the year came with Chelsea as the Italian helped the Blues to only their second Champions League trophy.

After playing in every minute of the knockout stages, bar a game against Atletico Madrid when he was suspended, the midfielder produced an outstanding performance in the final against Manchester City.

Giorgio Chiellini of Italy and Jorge Luiz Frello Filho Jorginho of Italy during the Uefa Euro 2020 Group stage - Group A football match between Italy and Switzerland at stadio Olimpico in Rome

A couple of months later, Jorginho featured in every game of Italy's Euro 2020 winning campaign.

The two victories meant Jorginho claimed both of the biggest trophies on offer this year.

If that doesn't earn you a shot at the Ballon d'Or, than we don't know what will.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.

After a hit and miss year for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese forward has been priced at 40/1 to win what would be his sixth Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo ended the previous season as Serie A's top scorer with 29 to his name. Despite that impressive haul, his Juventus side only managed a fourth-placed finish.

What's more, Juve bowed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 following a defeat to FC Porto.

Ronaldo's only success during that campaign was claiming the Coppa Italia - a small consolation for a man with his expectations.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the final whistle of the UEFA Champions League, Group F match at Old Trafford,

Since then, Ronaldo went on to top the scoring charts at the European Championships. The Portuguese international scored five times as his side suffered elimination in the round of 16.

CR7 made a sensational return to Manchester United in the summer in a bid to end the club's long trophyless run.

Since his move, the player has already scored nine goals in 11 appearances - five of those efforts coming in the Champions League.

If that wasn't enough, he also broke the international scoring record, overtaking Ali Daei with 113 goals.

Like him or not, you can never count Ronaldo out - even if he's priced at 40/1.

READ MORE: Bookies have their say on Conte's chances of succeeding at Spurs - and failing miserably

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