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Time for a defender to win Ballon d'Or?

Football's greatest individual prize was last won by a defender all the way back in 2006, when Italian maestro Fabio Cannavaro had the honour bestowed upon him, beating off competition from fellow countryman Gianluigi Buffon and Thierry Henry.

Football's greatest individual prize was last won by a defender all the way back in 2006, when Italian maestro Fabio Cannavaro had the honour bestowed upon him, beating off competition from fellow countryman Gianluigi Buffon and Thierry Henry.

Since then, the prize has largely been passed back and forth between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With both superstars falling short of their usual high standards this season, it seems as though the award could be heading to a fresh face. Here we make the case for the goalkeepers and defenders who have outshone their attacking counterparts in 2021.

Golden Football
The famous "Golden Ball" award is the brainchild of French sports magazine France Football and is widely regarded as the best gauge of who the world's most dominant player is

Take Your Pick from Italian Stalwarts

It speaks volumes about just how good the Italian national team's backline is that no fewer than four of their number have been nominated for the Ballon d'Or in 2021. They, of course, frustrated and outmuscled everyone at Euro 2020 to confound the bookmakers and online betting tipsters to run out as easy winners of the competition, and their players have also been upsetting the odds in Serie A to boot. Nicolò Barella is one of the hottest full-backs in world football, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini form the deadliest centre-back partnership in world football, and Gianluigi Donnarumma has proven he has safe hands when under the utmost pressure. The only thing that could count against these men is their patchy club form, although sports free bets are still wagered on them on a weekly basis to keep clean sheets at their respective clubs. Few will be betting against one of their number claiming the coveted Ballon d'Or in 2021.

football pitch and ball
Defenders and goalkeepers are rarely given the recognition they deserve at the Ballon d'Or awards, playing second fiddle to strikers and midfielders

Chelsea's Rock

Chelsea's Champions League winning full-back, César Azpilicueta, is so much more to his club than a top-notch defender, acting as the leader that the whole Blues squad looks up to. He perhaps does not have the goalscoring ability or the flair required to win the Ballon d'Or, but he is ultimately the sort of player who delivers league and cup titles for his manager rather than just an impressive goal tally and few stepovers.

Pep's Secret Weapon

Sometimes a defender is so good at what they do that they swoop completely under the radar of the casual football fan, to deliver clean sheets with a minimum or fuss or controversy. Such is the case with Man City's Rúben Dias, who has established himself not only as a Premier League winner but a man who can subdue even the world's best strikers. ID:468474:1false2false3false:!x!:: from db desktop :LenBod:collect4214:
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Chelsea1410313362733
2Manchester CityMan City1410222982132
3Liverpool1494143123131
4West Ham UnitedWest Ham147342517824
5Arsenal147251720-323
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs137151317-422
7Manchester UnitedMan Utd146352424021
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves146351212021
9Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton144731315-219
10Leicester CityLeicester145452225-319
11Crystal Palace143741920-116
12Brentford144461719-216
13Aston Villa145181923-416
14Everton144371724-715
15Leeds UnitedLeeds143651320-715
16Southampton143651320-715
17Watford144191926-713
18Burnley131751420-610
19Norwich CityNorwich14248828-2010
20Newcastle UnitedNewcastle140771630-147

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