15 first-timers make 2021 Ballon d’Or nomination

Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea of Chelsea against Southampton
Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea of Chelsea against Southampton -IMAGO / Shutterstock

Half of the players nominated for this year’s Ballon d’Or are first-timers according to data. 

Last week, organisers of the Ballon d’Or, France Football released a 30-man list that contains the nominees for this year’s version of the prestigious award. Out of the 30-man shortlist, 15 players are making the grade for the first time in their careers.

As usual, regular names like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo made the list. But these new sets of players are looking to follow in the footsteps of these legends and hope that this is not the only time they make the list. 

Of the players nominated for the first time, there are those who have been performing at the highest level for years and are expected to have been nominated before.

An example of such a player is Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini. The legendary defender has had a long career at the very top but has just been nominated for the first time in his illustrious career. He is included in the list after a successful year with Italy where he won the Euros.

Another surprising name on the list is Romelu Lukaku. The Belgium international has been around for a long time and is his country’s all-time top scorer. A record like that will have many believing that he is a Ballon d”or regular, but this is his maiden Ballon d’Or nomination. He was nominated for a successful year with Inter Milan with whom he won the Scudetto. 

Other players on the list are Chelsea players Cesar Azpilicueta, Mason Mount and Jorginho. The Blues trio makes the list as they were part of the side that won the Champions League, while Jorginho also won the Euros with Italy.

Italy Euro final hero and PSG keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also make the list for the first time. He is joined by Inter Milan and Italy player Nicolo Barella, who also played a huge part in Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph.

Lautaro Martinez and Simon Kjaer also make the list for the first time, with the latter rewarded with a nomination for his heroics for Denmark in the European Championship. 

Portuguese pair Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Dias are nominated for their importance to the club, while Gerard Moreno also makes the list. 

Youngsters Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, and Pedri complete the list of first-time nominees. 

Meanwhile, a Ballon d’Or nomination does not always mean that a player will go on to have a good footballing career and remain at the top for years. 

Some of these players look destined to become regulars among the Ballon d’Or nominees for years to come, while for others this could prove to be a career-high point. 

As an example, Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek was named among the 30-player long list for the men’s Ballon d’Or in 2019 after a stellar season with Ajax. The Dutchman was one of the most coveted young midfielders in Europe after playing a pivotal role in Ajax’s 2018-19 campaign.

But Since his 2019 nomination, Van de Beek has made just 30 league appearances in total with only four Premier League starts since he joined United 13 months ago. 

Although at 24 he still has time in his hands and could resurrect his career, for some of the older players, this will be their last chance of ever being mentioned among the best layers in the world. 

The likes of Cesar Azpilicueta and Chiellini are certainly in their last chance, while Pedri, Foden, Mount and Haaland will be hoping that this is the first of many nominations.


Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain/Chelsea)

Nicolò Barella (Italy/Inter Milan)

Giorgio Chiellini (Italy/Juventus)

Ruben Dias (Portugal/Manchester City)

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy/Paris Saint-Germain)

Bruno Fernandes (Portugal/Manchester United)

Phil Foden (England/Manchester City)

Erling Haaland (Norway/Borussia Dortmund)

Jorginho (Italy/Chelsea)

Simon Kjaer (Denmark/AC Milan)

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium/Chelsea)

Lautaro Martinez (Argentina/Inter Milan)

Gerard Moreno (Spain/Villarreal)

Mason Mount (England/Chelsea)

Pedri (Spain/Barcelona)