Halfway through 2021, N'Golo Kante deserves the Ballon d'Or

The highest N'Golo Kante has ever finished in Ballon d'Or voting was eighth in 2017, but in 2021 he needs to be higher up that list. If he isn't, it would be the biggest snub imaginable for the man who the most important player during Chelsea's run to the 2020/21 Champions League title.

The 30-year-old was named as UEFA's man of the match for the semi-final first leg, the semi-final second leg and the final. That's incredible and all three of these accomplishments were deserved.

"He was a massive influence in the middle third of the pitch both with and without the ball and formed an excellent partnership with Jorginho," said UEFA technical observers John Peacock and Patrick Vieira, after the victory over Manchester City.

It was similar in both legs of the semi-final with Real Madrid, where Kante combined his usual defensive duties with leading counter attacks against Los Blancos, creating various chances for the Blues.

The Frenchman has been excellent since Thomas Tuchel took over in January, which is when the consideration period for the 2021 Ballon d'Or is supposed to begin. He has barely put a foot wrong since then and, more than that, he has done so much right. It's hard to imagine Chelsea lifting their second European Cup without Kante's presence.

At this point, halfway through 2021 and with a summer of international tournaments still to come, Kante has to be the clubhouse leader for this year's Ballon d'Or award. Lionel Messi has been his excellent self, Kylian Mbappe has had some big Champions League nights and Robert Lewandowski is still firing in the goals, but there's nobody else in the world who can say they have been man of the match in the three most important fixtures of this UEFA season.

Kante and France's Euro 2020 chances
While Kante is already the star of 2021, he can add to his Ballon d'Or candidacy this summer at the European Championship. France may be in the group of death, along with Portugal and Germany, but they are the reigning world champions - thanks, in large part, to the midfielder - and will be expected to go far in the tournament.

If Kante is key to a France run at Euro 2020 then his case for being crowned the world's best will be even stronger. If Les Bleus win the tournament and if Kante is a key player for Didier Deschamps, then it's a lock.

Well, perhaps not. Even if Kante is already the best performer of 2021 and even if he has a stellar Euro 2020, he will still face difficulties in actually getting his hands on the golden ball that he deserves.

Kante is beloved in the world of football, but he is a humble player who is never going to bang his own drum in the way that is sometimes required to win this award, an award that is also based on footballing politics as well as merit.

Asked about his chances of winning it following the Champions League final win, Kante played down the Ballon d'Or talk.

"No, for the moment we are savouring the Champions League and then the Euros are soon," he said.

His position doesn't help either, as midfielders don't score the goals that grab the headlines and the attention of some of the Ballon d'Or voters. Luka Modric may have won it from midfield in 2018, but the only other true midfielders to have won in in the 21st century were Pavel Nedved in 2003 and Kaka in 2007.

There is a long way to go, as we're only halfway through 2021. But, right now on May 30, N'Golo Kante has been the best player of 2021.

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