Ballon d’Or: Contenders & Predictions

We highlight the contenders for this year’s FIFA Women’s Ballon d’Or and then four members of the Impetus writing team – Ben Gilby, Jean-Pierre Thiesset, Kieran Yap, and Kris Goman discuss who they think deserves the award this year and who they suspect will win.

Above: The Ballon d’Or. Photo: FIFA

FIFA recently announced the contenders for the 2021 Women’s Ballon d’Or award. The twenty player shortlist consists of:

Stina Blackstenius, Swedish – BK Häcken (Sweden), Kadidiatou Diani, French – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Christiane Endler, Chilean – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Olympique Lyonnais (France), Magdalena Eriksson, Swedish – Chelsea (England), Jessie Fleming, Canadian – Chelsea (England), Pernille Harder, Danish – Chelsea (England), Jennifer Hermoso, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Marie-Antoinette Katoto, French – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Sam Kerr, Australian – Chelsea (England), Fran Kirby, English – Chelsea (England), Ashley Lawrence, Canadian – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Lieke Martens, Dutch – Barcelona (Spain), Sam Mewis, American – North Carolina Courage (USA), Vivianne Miedema, Dutch – Arsenal (England), Sandra Paños, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Irene Paredes, Spanish – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Barcelona (Spain), Alexia Putellas, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Wendie Renard, French – Olympique Lyonnais (France), Christine Sinclair, Canadian – Portland Thorns (USA), Ellen White, English – Manchester City (England).

Of the twenty players in the shortlist, four are Spanish, three Canadian, three French, two Dutch, two English, two Swedish, and one American, Australian, Chilean, and Dane each. In terms of where these stars are playing their club football, seven play in the FAWSL in England, five in France’s D1 Arkema, five in Spain, two in America, and one in Sweden.

My View – Ben Gilby:

Above: Christine Sinclair (12) – big achievements with Canada. Photo: Getty Images.

In terms of who I believe are strong contenders, Fran Kirby had the best season of her life in club football last season and was an absolute joy to watch, however, her lack of international success during the calendar year with Great Britain exiting the Olympics at the Quarter-Finals, and England having a less than impressive run of results before the Autumn is likely to count against her. Sam Kerr finally showed the doubters why they were so wrong about her in the early part of the 2020/21 FAWSL season as she couldn’t stop scoring for club and found her scoring touch for the Matildas as they made the Semi-Finals of the Olympic Games. Jessie Fleming’s nomination is great to see for her incredible performances in Tokyo, but she did not make many starts for Chelsea during this calendar year. Also well worth keeping an eye out for is Alexia Putellas given Barcelona’s outstanding season which culminated with a breathtaking Champions League Final performance and Spain’s continuing emergence as a force on the European international scene – something that deserves to be rewarded.

This award usually counts international success as a key factor, therefore I have a suspicion that Christine Sinclair might just take the award after she finally achieved major international success with Canada to add to her phenomenal goal-scoring record as she took Olympic Gold with her country.

My View – Jean-Pierre Thiesset:

Above: Jessie Fleming, who had an incredible 2021. Photo: Getty Images.

I think that to be awarded a Ballon d’Or, the team in which you play, and the trophies won by your team influence the decision a lot. You can be the best player in your category but if your team did not win anything, there is little chance that you have the Ballon d’Or. The teams of the last two recipients had won big contests: Ada Hegerberg, Champions League winner with Lyon; Megan Rapinoe, World Cup winner with the USA.

I think that Christiane Endler is the best goalkeeper, and I would love to see her awarded the Ballon d’Or, but she is a goalkeeper, and everyone knows that it is even more difficult for a goalkeeper to be awarded a Ballon d’Or, and she neither won the Champions League with Paris SG, nor the Olympics with Chile; so, there is little chance that she will win. For the same reasons, I think that Wendie Renard, who is probably the best defender in the world but she won nothing with Lyon last season and will not have it either, except if the voters take into consideration her full career. I could see Sam Kerr who won the England Championship with Chelsea, and had good performances in Olympics Games with Australia, even if they did not win it. But I guess that Jessie Fleming who won the Olympics Games with Canada, the England Championship with Chelsea, and who was in the final of Women UEFA Champions League could be the 2021 Ballon d’Or recipient.

My View: Kieran Yap:

Above: Lieke Martens – part of a sensational Barcelona team. Photo: FC Barcelona.

Caroline Graham-Hansen was an outstanding player in a dominant side. She was unstoppable and influential against Chelsea in the Champions League Final and is a key player in the all-conquering Barcelona team. Strangely the Norwegian has not been nominated in what can only be a bizarre oversight.

Sam Kerr delivered at every opportunity for club and country. She won the Golden Boot in her first full FAWSL season and scored six times at the Olympics. Her form has rightfully been rewarded with a third straight Ballon D’or nomination. Although she is probably the best centre-forward in the world, voters might not consider that enough to be considered the best player.

The award will go to somebody from Barcelona. The Spanish league is relatively difficult to watch compared to the FAWSL so it can be very easy to forget how good this team is.

But the brutal and stylish way that they brushed aside both Arsenal and Chelsea in the Champions League were reminders that they are currently operating on another level completely.

The award can only go to one player though and that will probably be Lieke Martens.

She has won almost every individual award available to her so far and deservedly so. Martens ticks all the boxes for a Ballon D’or winner. She plays with an eye-catching style but her flair is backed up by impact, she creates goals from wide and scores them when she cuts inside, often spectacularly.

In full flight, Martens is simply unstoppable. She’s the best individual player in the best club team and a strong national side. That should be enough to see her win.

My View: Kris Goman:

Above: Alexia Putellas – lynchpin of arguably the greatest team in the world right now. Photo: FC Barcelona.

It will be another tight year to win this award. For my money, I’d be very surprised if Alexia Putellas didn’t walk away with the trophy.

She’s had a stellar year with Barcelona winning both their domestic trophy and the Champions League. In my mind, there’s no doubt Barcelona is the best women’s club team on the planet right now and Putellas is the lynchpin of the team. It would be criminal not to recognize this.

Coming hot on her heels is Sam Kerr. As an Australian, is hard not to be nationalistic about this but the facts are that she’s a prolific scorer. She’s won the golden boot in three competitions multiple times, won the League, the Conti Cup, the FA Cup and got to the final of the Champions League with Chelsea and led Australia to the Bronze medal match of the Olympic Games this year. It’s an impressive resume and she’s a very worthy contender.

Outside chances for my thinking, include Fran Kirby who has had an equally stellar club season as Kerr, Vivianne Miedema who’s been on fire for the last four years scoring goals indiscriminately, and Christine Sinclaire who might get the nod for her long term efforts including getting most international goals ever this year, along with leading Canada to a gold medal at the Olympics.

Who do YOU think will win? Add your thoughts to our post on social media (@ImpetusFootball on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram)

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