Euro 2020 hero Giorgio Chiellini has been backed as a potential contender for the 2021 Ballon d’Or alongside Italy teammate Jorginho and Lionel Messi.
That is according to Shakhtar Donetsk manager Roberto De Zerbi, who believes that Chiellini could challenge for France Football’s sought-after award.
Chiellini, 36, was hailed for his formidable partnership with Italy teammate Leonardo Bonucci at this summer’s Euro 2020.
The Juventus legend, who is currently a free agent, captained Roberto Mancini’s men to silverware after Italy defeated England on penalties in the final at Wembley.
Jorginho has received endorsements from Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola after an impressive year for both club and country.
The 29-year-old Italian midfielder lifted the Champions League title with Chelsea before adding to his trophy cabinet with the Euro 2020 title.
However, Messi is expected to be a strong favourite to win his seventh Ballon d’Or award after Argentina’s Copa America triumph over Brazil.
Speaking toGazzetta dello Sport, De Zerbi has now suggested that Jorginho “deserves” to win the Ballon d’Or.
But the 42-year-old, who left Sassuolo to become Shakhtar boss in May, pointed out that Chiellini could follow in the footsteps of Fabio Cannavaro by winning the award.
“If you look at the trophies he’s [Jorginho] won, he deserves it,” De Zerbi said.
“He is such a smart midfielder. When I was at Sassuolo, I used to tell Maxime Lopez to watch him closely because he sees football one hour before the others.
“You won’t notice him many times, but he was one of Italy’s key players with Gigio Donnarumma, Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
“However, Messi remains Messi and, until he plays, will be among the candidates.
“Fabio Cannavaro won the Ballon d’Or in the past, so I don’t see why Chiellini should not win it for the spirit he had at the Euros.”
Featured Image Credit: PA