The Ballon d’Or is back in 2021 following a two-year absence, brought on by France Football’s decision to suspend it in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is only the third time that the Ballon d’Or Feminin, which was newly created for 2018, will be handed out to the best female player in the world over the last 12 months.

There are contenders from all over, while performances at the delayed Olympics are another factor to consider from a year crammed full of action.

The official shortlist will be published by France Football on 8 October, but here’s a look at 20 deserving nominees – ranked in descending order from 20th to first…

Irene Paredes has made Barcelona even stronger

Irene Paredes has made Barcelona even stronger / Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Paredes capped off her PSG career with a French league title and journey to the Champions League semi-finals, beating Lyon in both competitions.

She has since joined Barcelona to strengthen their ranks even more.

Ann-Katrin Berger has been a foundation of Chelsea's success

Ann-Katrin Berger has been a foundation of Chelsea’s success / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Berger helped Chelsea secure two domestic trophies in 2021, as well as reach the Champions League final for the first time.

Big saves in crucial moments were a huge part of that.

Pernille Harder remains one of the best in the world

Pernille Harder remains one of the best in the world / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Harder became the most expensive female player in history when she joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg at the start of last season and justified that by scoring crucial goals en-route to the Champions League final.

Sandra Panos is a reliable backbone for Barcelona

Sandra Panos is a reliable backbone for Barcelona / Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Panos was named goalkeeper of the year by UEFA for 2020/21 thanks to her performances for Barcelona in the Champions League.

On top of that trophy, she won league and cup titles in Spain.

Fridolina Rolfo followed up a move to Barcelona with an Olympic medal

Fridolina Rolfo followed up a move to Barcelona with an Olympic medal / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Rolfo was chosen by Barcelona in the summer as one of the few players good enough to improve their already outstanding squad, having performed superbly for Wolfsburg.

She collected an Olympic silver medal in summer.

Christiane Endler has moved from PSG to Lyon in 2021 / Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Endler kept 19 clean sheets for PSG in Division 1 Feminine last season as the club finally wrestled domestic power away from Lyon – she was then poached by the enemy for this season.

Christine Sinclair finally her her Olympic gold medal

Christine Sinclair finally her her Olympic gold medal / Naomi Baker/Getty Images

More as a nod to a lifetime of achievement, Sinclair has become the leading goalscorer in the history of international football since the last Ballon d’Or in 2019.

What’s more she is now also an Olympic champion.

Mapi Leon has emerged as an outstanding defender

Mapi Leon has emerged as an outstanding defender / Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Leon was the defensive rock on which Barcelona’s incredible season was built on.

She has developed into one of the world’s best ball-playing centre-backs and is still only just hitting her peak.

Sam Mewis shone in her brief spell with Man City

Sam Mewis shone in her brief spell with Man City / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Unlike several of her international teammates making a similar move, USWNT star Mewis thrived after moving to Europe.

She was nominated for WSL player of the year and scored five times in the Champions League.

Magdalena Eriksson has led Chelsea to domestic dominance

Magdalena Eriksson has led Chelsea to domestic dominance / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Eriksson led Chelsea to great successes in 2021, retaining their power and dominance within English football and breaking new ground in the Champions League.

She also won an Olympic silver medal with Sweden.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto inspired PSG to break Lyon's dominance

Marie-Antoinette Katoto inspired PSG to break Lyon’s dominance / Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Katoto scored the goals last season that helped PSG break the longstanding domestic dominance of Lyon – averaging more than a goal every league game.

She got another four in Europe on top of that.

Ashley Lawrence won an Olympic gold medal with Canada

Ashley Lawrence won an Olympic gold medal with Canada / Naomi Baker/Getty Images

2021 has been a glorious year for Lawrence.

At club level, she won the French title with PSG and made it to the last four of the Champions League, while she collected an Olympic gold medal with Canada over summer.

Aitana Bonmati scored in the 2021 Champions League final

Aitana Bonmati scored in the 2021 Champions League final / David Lidstrom/Getty Images

Bonmati’s rise has, in many ways mirrored Barcelona’s in recent seasons.

Having grown up with the club since the age of 14, she was a treble winner in 2021, scoring in the Champions League final.

Lieke Martens returned to her best form in 2021

Lieke Martens returned to her best form in 2021 / Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Martens has conquered the world already when she scooped FIFA’s annual award in 2017 but has returned to her best in 2021.

Five goals en-route to Champions League glory and third in UEFA’s player of the year stakes.

Sam Kerr has burst into life with Chelsea

Sam Kerr has burst into life with Chelsea / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Kerr has found her feet at Chelsea after a patchy start to her career there.

Last season she won a WSL title and the league’s golden boot in her first full season and reached the Champions League final.

Vivianne Miedema cannot stop scoring goals for Arsenal or Netherlands

Vivianne Miedema cannot stop scoring goals for Arsenal or Netherlands / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Miedema just keeps scoring goals. Last season, the Arsenal superstar became the WSL’s all-time leader scorer and finished the campaign on 25 in all competitions.

She also got another 10 at the Olympics over summer.

Fran Kirby is often unplayable for Chelsea

Fran Kirby is often unplayable for Chelsea / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Kirby’s return to world class form over the past 12 months has been nothing short of remarkable.

She went from her whole career being at risk from illness to scoring and assisting at will in the WSL and Champions League.

Jenni Hermoso has been prolific for Barcelona

Jenni Hermoso has been prolific for Barcelona / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Hermoso was named UEFA women’s forward of the year for 2020/21 thanks to the six goals she scored in the competition.

She was also top scorer in the Spanish league with 31 goals to her name.

Caroline Graham Hansen stepped up another level in 2021

Caroline Graham Hansen stepped up another level in 2021 / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Hansen went from strength to strength during the 2020/21 season, taking Barcelona to new heights and running rings around Chelsea in the Champions League final in an unplayable performance.

Putellas is reigning UEFA women's player of the season

Putellas is reigning UEFA women’s player of the season / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Now Barcelona captain, Putellas has been unplayable over the past year.

She has scored and created for fun in Spain and the Champions League and was was named both midfielder and player of the season by UEFA.

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