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2021 Ballon d'Or: Messi has reportedly been informed he's won France Football's award

 The 2021 Ballon d'Or is one of the most highly-anticipated editions of France Football's coveted prize. Unlike previous years where it was merely a two-way battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, this time around, several players have staked a strong claim for the prestigious accolade.

Robert Lewandowski, who unfortunately missed out on the 2020 edition due to its cancellation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to lead the goalscoring chart with little to no challenge. Karim Benzema, who was initially a dark horse in the race, has now emerged as one of the frontrunners after leading France to the UEFA Nations League title, adding to his stellar 2020/21 campaign at Real Madrid.

Then there are the Chelsea boys – N'Golo Kante and Jorginho – and Liverpool sensation Mohamed Salah. Kante played a crucial role in the Blues' UEFA Champions League win while Jorginho was an integral figure in both that triumph and Italy's Euro 2020 success. Salah, on the other hand, is one of, if not the, most in-form player in world football right now thanks to his tremendous 2021/22 campaign.

So who will come away with the 2021 Ballon d'Or prize at the November 29th gala in Paris? According to Portuguese television channel RTP Sports, the winner has already been determined and it is none of the aforementioned players.

RTP claim that this year's prize will go to none other than Lionel Messi, who has been the odds-on favorite for quite some time. According to the Portuguese outlet, the Argentine has already been informed and has given his interview to France Football magazine for his record-extending seventh triumph.

But why La Pulga, many might ask? Leo's biggest claim to this prize comes from his summer exploits with the Argentine national team. The 34-year-old captained his nation at the 2021 Copa America, and for the first time since 1993, he led La Albiceleste to the title, beating bitter South American rivals Brazil 1-0 in the final at the Maracana.

Furthermore, in 2020/21, Messi once again finished as La Liga's top scorer while inspiring an uninspiring Barcelona side to a title challenge – although the Blaugrana eventually missed out on the Spanish top-flight crown to Atletico. He did, however, get his hands on the Copa del Rey trophy, putting in a Man of the Match display against Athletic Club in the final, scoring twice, one of which was a typical stunning effort.

After failing to agree a new deal with the Catalan giants due to the financial crisis at the Camp Nou, Messi was forced to leave the club and eventually joined French giants PSG. While the iconic attacker has three goals in three UEFA Champions League appearances for Pochettino's side, the Argentine is yet to impress in Ligue 1, with La Pulga boasting zero goals and zero assists to his name. As a result, expect many to criticize the decision to award Leo this year's Ballon d'Or if RTP Sports' claim turns out to be true.