France Football magazine released their 30-man shortlist for the 2016 Ballon d’Or award yesterday.
The usual suspects, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, were included, while Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez represented fresh faces.
Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were the high-profile absentees from France Football’s list, the magazine claiming Hazard’s “insipid performances… during most of 2016,” were to blame for his exclusion.
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Yet, despite the snubs, Hazard, Sanchez or Ozil shouldn’t worry too much. It would have been nice to be acknowledged, but the trio know that the award is likely to go to one of two players.
Messi or Ronaldo has won the award every year since 2007, the Barcelona star claiming a record fifth prize in 2015. And given their achievements in 2016, it will probably be a two-horse race once again.
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The Argentine helped Barcelona win their second-straight La Liga title and also reached the final of Copa America Centenario with Argentina. Meanwhile, his Real Madrid counterpart scored the winning penalty in May’s Champions League final against Atletico Madrid and captained Portugal to success at the European Championships.
Neymar, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann certainly put themselves in a good position to end Messi and Ronaldo’s dominant streak - Griezmann was named La Liga’s best player in Monday’s ceremony - but their efforts are likely to fall a little short once again.
Before the Portuguese came along, Raul was Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer. Yet the Spaniard didn’t win the Ballon d’Or during his illustrious career, finishing second to Michael Owen in 2001.
Not since Kaka in 2007 has a player not named Messi or Ronaldo collected the coveted prize, and Raul doesn’t think that will change.
“I think Cristiano. This is between Cristiano and Messi, and Griezmann can enter the podium,” the former Los Blancos and Schalke striker said, per Sport. “Cristiano, Messi and Griezmann would be a good podium.
“They have much value, the Champions League and the European Championships, and I think it is the year of Cristiano.”
"Cristiano and Messi are level"
Though Raul is backing Ronaldo to claim his fourth award, he refused to call the Portuguese star the better player.
“The best in the world depends at the moment,” Raul added. “Cristiano and Messi are level.”