Wednesday 24 November 2021, 11:00

The Best FIFA Men’s Player: Nominees in focus

  • Eleven fantastic footballers nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2021

  • We look closer at the achievements that earned their places on the shortlist

  • Broken records, major titles and milestone achievements all feature

Whether you’re a fan of midfield dynamos, classy creators or supreme strikers, the eleven-man shortlist for The Best FIFA Men's Player 2021 has it all.

You have a say in who prevails, too, by casting your vote for the player you believe to be most deserving of taking home this coveted award on 17 January 2022. To help you decide, we take a closer look at the men in the running and the amazing achievements they’ve accumulated during the period on which The Best is judged.

Karim Benzema

A player who is continually improving well into his 30s, the Frenchman has emerged from a supporting role to become Real Madrid’s star man. The 2020/21 campaign was arguably his best yet, encompassing 30 goals for Los Merengues and a long-awaited return to the France national team, for whom he scored four times at UEFA EURO 2020.

Did you know? Benzema became just the third player to score a brace for France in both the FIFA World Cup™ and the EURO. He’s in good company too, with Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane the other members of that trio.

Kevin De Bruyne

An outstanding all-rounder who inspired Manchester City to glory in the Premier League and propelled the club to their first UEFA Champions League final, De Bruyne was a popular choice as England’s PFA Player of the Year for 2020/21. The midfielder also starred for his country at the EURO and in their successful FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

Did you know? De Bruyne has provided nine assists for Belgium in major tournaments since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, setting up goals in all four global and European finals in which he has taken part. No other European player has provided more assists across the two competitions.

Erling Haaland

A tremendous tally of 41 goals in as many appearances tells the story of the prolific Norwegian’s first full season as a Borussia Dortmund player. The 21-year-old also smashed records en route to becoming the top scorer in last season’s UEFA Champions League.

Did you know? In March, Haaland scored his 100th senior career goal in his 146th match in all competitions. To put that in context, Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo required 180, 210 and 301 appearances respectively to reach their first century.


The bestowing of UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award reflected a near-perfect 2020/21 season for the Chelsea and Italy midfielder, who became a European champion with both club and country – and was hugely influential in those Champions League and EURO triumphs.

Did you know? Jorginho made 25 interceptions for Italy at EURO 2020 - the highest figure ever recorded at the European finals.

N’Golo Kanté

Jorginho’s Chelsea midfield colleague was an energetic, inspirational presence in the Blues’ surprise Champions League success, producing a superb man of the match-winning performance in the 1-0 final win over Manchester City.

Did you know? Since helping Leicester City to their fairy tale Premier League triumph in 2016, Kanté has picked up winners’ medals in the FIFA World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, Premier League (again) and FA Cup.

Robert Lewandowski

The predatory Pole maintained the form that saw him crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player 2020, winning the FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern and breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing single-season Bundesliga record with an unprecedented haul of 41 goals.

Did you know? Lewandowski is the first player in Bundesliga history to finish top scorer in four consecutive seasons.

Kylian Mbappé

The French forward enjoyed the highest-scoring season of his remarkable career in 2020/21. As well as finishing as Ligue 1’s top marksman, he was named the division’s player of the year for a second time.

Did you know? Mbappé became just the fifth player to break through the 100-goal mark for Paris Saint-Germain, following in the footsteps of Edinson Cavani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pauleta and Dominique Rocheteau.

Lionel Messi

After signing off at Barcelona by claiming the Pichichi Trophy for a record-extending eighth time, the Argentina captain enjoyed the highlight of his international career in Brazil, leading La Albiceleste to Copa America glory and winning both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards for his outstanding individual displays.

Did you know? Messi scored four goals and set up another five at the Copa America. He also provided more shots and more through balls than any other player at the tournament.


Despite enduring an injury-interrupted season, Neymar still managed 17 goals for PSG, was named in the Copa America team of the tournament as Brazil reached the final and proved as influential as ever as A Seleção coasted through FIFA World Cup qualifying to become the first South American team to secure their place in Qatar.

Did you know? Neymar has seven goals in the Qatar 2022 preliminaries and last month became the highest-scoring Brazilian in World Cup qualifying history.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Now 36, the Portuguese icon shows no signs of slowing up and last season finished as top scorer in both Serie A (29 goals) and EURO 2020 (5). As well as setting a variety of new EURO records, Ronaldo became the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football – equalling Ali Daei’s record during the period on which The Best is judged before later claiming the record for himself.

Did you know? Ronaldo’s goal haul at EURO 2020 comfortably established him as the UEFA European Championship’s all-time leading scorer. With 14 goals at the continental finals, he is five clear of nearest challenger Michel Platini.

Mohamed Salah

The irrepressible Egyptian scored 31 times in total across all competitions for Liverpool in 2020/21, becoming the first Reds player to find the net 20-plus times in three different Premier League seasons.

Did you know? Salah is the top-scoring African in Premier League history, having surpassed Didier Drogba’s benchmark of 104 earlier this year.