Chiesa, Oblak and the five biggest Ballon d'Or 2021 shortlist snubs

Federico Chiesa Jan Oblak GFXGetty/Goal

It has been almost two years since the Ballon d'Or was awarded following the cancellation of the 2020 prize, but we are now one closer to the latest winner of the most illustrious individual prize in football being named.

The 30-man shortlist for the award was revealed on Friday by France Football, with Lionel Messi the current favourite to win the trophy for the seventh time, ahead of Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho.

Romelu Lukaku, Kylian Mbappe, N'Golo Kante and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo are also in the mix, while a number of the Italy squad that won Euro 2020 are also included.

But which players failed to make the cut and perhaps a little unlucky to miss out? Goal runs down the five biggest snubs from the 2021 Ballon d'Or nominees...

Federico Chiesa (Juventus, loan from Fiorentina)

In 2021: 17 goals, seven assists. Won Euro 2020, Coppa Italia & Supercoppa Italiana.

Almost certainly the most surprising of the Italy players not to make the 30-man shortlist, Chiesa's performances for both the Azzurri and Juventus had some pegging him challenging for a top-10 finish.

Though the winger did not start Euro 2020 in Roberto Mancini's starting XI, he worked his way into the line-up over the course of the tournament, scoring crucial goals against Austria and Spain over the course of the summer.

Federico Chiesa Italy GFXGetty/Goal

A standout performance in the final victory over England further cemented his standing as one of the best young attackers in world football - a status that the 23-year-old had already begun securing during the second half of the 2020-21 season.

As the Bianconeri faltered in both Serie A and the Champions League, Chiesa emerged as their go-to man in big games, and though his three goals against Porto were not enough to avoid a last 16 exit from Europe, he did net crucial strikes to ensure a top-four finish for Andrea Pirlo's side on the domestic front.

Chiesa also scored the decisive goal in a Man-of-the-Match-winning display in Juve's Coppa Italia final victory over Atalanta, and has started the new campaign in electrifying form, with his winner against Chelsea in late-September signifying that the Turin outfit's underwhelming start to the season was over.

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

In 2021: 14 clean sheets. Won La Liga.

Perhaps the other most egregious snub of 2021 comes in the form of Oblak, who was seemingly shunned in place of Luis Suarez when those who put the list together looked for a player to represent Atletico Madrid's title-winning side of 2020-21.

Though Suarez took the majority of the headlines for his goalscoring exploits following his controversial exit from Barcelona, it was Oblak who proved to be the difference maker, especially over the course of the second half of the campaign.

Jan Oblak Atletico Madrid GFXGetty/Goal

The Slovenia international was named La Liga's Player of the Year after a host of superb performances down the stretch that included two crucial saved penalties in the final weeks of the title race.

Goalkeepers tend not to get the recognition they deserve when individual prizes are handed out, and with Oblak not playing in either the latter stages of the Champions League or at Euro 2020, it is likely many forgot about his performances when the time to vote for the shortlist came around.

We at Goal, though, won't forget what you did, Jan!

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

In 2021: 11 goals, 21 assists. Won Bundesliga, Club World Cup & DFL-Supercup.

Now onto three players who, while strong performers over the course of 2021, might have been a little fortunate if they had found themselves among the final 30.

The first of our final trio is Muller, whose renaissance at Bayern Munich has seen him reemerge as one of the finest No.10s of his generation.

Thomas Muller Bayern Munich GFXGetty/Goal

There is not a player on the 30-man shortlist who recorded as many assists for club and country over the course of 2021 as Muller, as his devastating partnership with Robert Lewandowski fired Bayern Munich to a ninth successive Bundesliga title.

He was also part of the squad that won the Club World Cup, even if a positive Covid-19 test ruled him out of the final.

One mark against the 32-year-old was his awful miss for Germany in their defeat to England at Euro 2020 having been recalled by Joachim Low, but all in all this was another stellar year for one of the modern game's great characters.

Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain)

In 2021: Eight goals, seven assists, 21 clean sheets. Won Serie A.

Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Nicolo Barella were the three members of Inter's title-winning side to make it onto the Ballon d'Or shortlist, but there is certainly an argument to be made that Hakimi deserved a slot too.

The Morocco international has emerged as the best wing-back in world football over the past year or so, with his sole season at San Siro one of the best by a defensive-minded player anywhere across Europe in 2020-21.

Achraf Hakimi Inter GFXGetty/Goal

In truth, it is Hakimi's attacking output that marks him apart from his peers, and he has continued to contribute in forward areas since completing a €60 million (£52m/$71m) move to Paris Saint-Germain.

With Hakimi not turning 23 until November, that deal has the potential to look like a real bargain over the course of the next decade if he can help the Parc des Princes outfit finally end their long wait for a Champions League title.

Jadon Sancho (Manchester United)

In 2021: 12 goals, 12 assists. Won DFB-Pokal.

Ok, here us out with this one...

Yes, Sancho has made a slow start to life at Manchester United following his £73m ($101m) move to Old Trafford, and yes, he did not play much of a role in England reaching the final of Euro 2020 either.

Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund GFXGetty/Goal

But from January through till May, Sancho was one of the most in-form players anywhere in Europe, as highlighted by his attacking numbers since the turn of the year.

To put those 12 goals and 12 assists in context, Kevin De Bruyne currently has the same number of goals for the year, and just one more assist than the ex-Manchester City academy star.

Sancho's form was arguably as important as the goals of Erling Haaland in securing a top-four finish in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, while the 21-year-old wideman also scored twice in the final of the DFB-Pokal.

And so while it would have been a surprise to see Sancho among the 30 names on the Ballon d'Or shortlist, there would have been an argument to justify it if he had ended up on there.

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