The nominations for the Ballon d’Or, football’s biggest individual prize since 1956, have been revealed. Predictably, the list is dominated by Europe’s elite clubs and those performing in the latter stages of this summer’s World Cup.
Nominations for 2018 Ballon d’Or Revealed
There’s No Shortage of Attacking Firepower
Eleven Premier League players have been selected, including Liverpool’s attacking front three and their goalkeeper Alisson. Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Paul Pogba represent Manchester, while players from Tottenham and Chelsea are representing London. Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante are nominated, all of whom made at least the World Cup semi-finals.
From the continent, the list is dominated by the usual host of big names from Spain, Italy and Paris. Arguably the two stars of the World Cup were Croatia’s Luka Modric and France’s talismanic Kylian Mpabbe. They both make the list and should be among the favourites to win. Two more of similarly good odds would be Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, both whose imperious club form far outweighs two average summer tournaments.
Lionel Messi came to Wembley and went home with all the headlines 🙌
It was another night in the capital belonging to the Argentine 🐐 pic.twitter.com/CsxEV5XdpX
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 4, 2018
There’s Due Respect Paid to the Defences
Despite the huge array of attacking talent, this 30-man shortlist does have some much-needed variety. Four goalkeepers make the list and David De Dea misses out after some questionable form. The most impressive of those nominated is arguably Jan Oblak from Atletico Madrid, who has posted some hugely respectable numbers recently.
That said, it would be hugely surprising if a goalkeeper picked up this year’s award. Similarly, the defenders on the list will struggle to win the final award. Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, fresh off their third consecutive Champions League win, make the list alongside Diego Godin and Raphael Varane. Varane is a dark horse; he was fantastic for France in the World Cup and kept four clean sheets in their seven matches.
Will it be Business as Usual?
However, despite these hugely impressive performances from Oblak and Varane, it would be a huge surprise if either won the award. The last defender to win it was Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro after leading his country to the World Cup trophy in 2006. Since Kaka won it the following year, Ronaldo and Messi have shared the last ten awards. Betting against either of these two wouldn’t be a wise idea; Ronaldo scored 44 goals from 44 games last year, including an outrageous bicycle kick against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Lionel Messi’s advancing years haven’t seemed to slow him down either. 45 goals last season only tells half the story; his incredible guile, passing range and coolness under pressure are as good as they have ever been. Claiming that he’ll win it is not a remotely outlandish suggestion.
What About This Summer’s Brightest Stars?
Beyond those two, Luka Modric would be an intriguing pick. Many bookmakers have him as their favourite after a fantastic World Cup campaign and winning FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award. His stock has never been higher and the same could be said of France’s Antoine Griezmann. He was Man of the Match in the World Cup final, though his decision to stay at Atletico Madrid rather than move to Barcelona may hinder his chances down the road.
His compatriot Kylian Mpabbe is another decent bet. As the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pelé, he has continued this imperious form into this current season with PSG. Nothing seems to phase him at all, even when taking the spotlight away from his teammate Neymar.
Kylian Mbappé scored four goals in EXACTLY 13 minutes 😲 pic.twitter.com/3NlVvGmrkI
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 7, 2018
Could he be the man to break up the Messi/Ronaldo/Modric conversation and win it? Hopefully. Will he be that man? Almost certainly not.