So, the list for the 30 players nominated for the Ballon d’Or has been released and it’s certainly got people talking.
Premier League fans may question how they could possibly leave out David de Gea, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez from the line-up but there’s no denying the list of 30 is pretty incredible.
According to the bookmakers, Cristiano Ronaldo will pick up his fourth Ballon d’Or, moving him just one behind Lionel Messi. Despite a slow start to this season, Ronaldo won both the Champions League and the European Championships last campaign and has scored 41 goals for club and country in this calendar year.
But behind Ronaldo, there are plenty of world-class talent wanting to get their hands on the prize.
Messi helped Barcelona win La Liga and has actually scored more than Ronaldo this year (49) whilst La Liga forwards Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Gareth Bale are the next in line behind the two superstars who have dominated this award since 2008.
While the winner may be a foregone conclusion, there is still plenty to discuss. So, for a bit of fun, we’ve attempted to pick the best XI from the 30 players.
Here it is:
Goalkeeper | Manuel Neuer | Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer established himself as the world’s best goalkeepers during 2016. He helped Bayern Munich win the Bundesliga and helped Germany reach the semi-final of Euro 2016.
Right-back | Sergio Ramos | Real Madrid
Sergio Ramos may not be a natural right-back but, given the shortage of defenders nominated, the Spaniard will play there in this XI. Ramos captained Madrid to Champions League glory, scoring the opener in the first-half against Atletico Madrid. He then scored a penalty in the shoot-out to lift the trophy as captain for the first time.
Centre-back | Diego Godin | Atletico Madrid
Diego Godin is probably one of the most under-rated players in Europe. The Uruguayan has been instrumental for Atletico since 2010 and helped them reach the Champions League final and launch another title challenge.
Centre-back | Pepe | Real Madrid
Pepe certainly divides opinion but, after he won the Champions League and European Champions, it’s hard to exclude him - especially as only three defenders were included in the 30.
Left-back | Gareth Bale | Real Madrid
Ok, we know Gareth Bale isn’t a left-back but the 30-man nominee list doesn’t include a single full-back. To be fair, Bale used to play there for Spurs so we’re sure he could do a job. He won the Champions League for a second-time this season and helped Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, scoring three goals during the tournament.
Centre-midfield | Andres Iniesta | Barcelona
He may be 32-years-old but Andres Iniesta is still world-class. He won his eighth league title for Barcelona last season and impressed during Euro 2016, despite Spain struggling.
Centre-midfield | Luka Modric | Real Madrid
Is there anyone out there that doesn’t enjoy watching Luka Modric play? No, didn’t think so. The Croat has just turned 31 but continues to dominate the Madrid midfield with just dazzling displays.
Centre-midfield | Toni Kroos | Real Madrid
Toni Kroos is still only 26 but is developing into one of the world’s best midfielders. After winning three Bundesliga titles for Bayern Munich, Kroos is looking to do the same with Madrid but has been unable to do that in his first two season at the Bernabeu. He’s missed just eight league matches in his two campaigns for Los Blancos.
Striker | Lionel Messi | Barcelona
It doesn’t look as though Messi will be adding to his Ballon d’Or collection but what a year he’s had. He scored 41 goals in 49 appearances for Barcelona last season to help them win La Liga and the Copa del Rey and guided Argentina to the final of Copa America, before missing a penalty in the shootout and momentarily retiring from international football.
Striker | Cristiano Ronaldo | Real Madrid
Ronaldo looks set to win the award when it’s announced in January - and it’s hard to argue. He won the Champions League and Euro 2016 this campaign, scoring the winning penalty in the final of the former and inspiring his side from the touchlines in the final of the latter.
Striker | Luis Suarez | Barcelona
It was a choice between Suarez, Griezmann and Neymar, but we’ve opted for the former Liverpool man. He’s scored an incredible 59 goals last season for the Catalan club and established himself as the best number nine in world football.
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