FIFA recently announced the three-man shortlist nominated for the Ballon d’Or, consisting of regulars Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), along with Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) who was an ever present figure for the German champions in their treble-winning, record-breaking season.
However a number of stars were overlooked on the shortlist and here are the top 5 players who were named in the initial 23-man list but failed to qualify for a spot in the final 3.
1. Luis Suarez
The Liverpool striker has been nothing short of breathtaking and has been the Premier League’s best player in 2013. Despite being suspended for 10 matches (six of which were served last season) for the bizarre biting-incident, he has managed to top the scoring charts in the Premier League this season and his goal scoring exploits have been matched only by Cristiano Ronaldo across the whole of Europe.
He has certainly stepped up his game from previous years, adding the clinical striking ability in front of the goal and setting new records in the Premier League. It is easy to see why Liverpool fought tooth and nail to keep him in the summer.
2. Gareth Bale
The Welshman had a brilliant season with Tottenham and was the driving force behind Spurs’ challenge for a Champions League spot, only to come agonizingly close and fall short by the thinnest of margins. However, his performances were rewarded with a record move to the Los Blancos and all the stardom that tagged along.
Although injuries and lack of a pre-season with Real Madrid have robbed him of an opportunity to have a perfect start to his career at the Bernabeu, he has put in some good displays so far and he might go on to justify the hefty price tag that Real Madrid paid for him.
3. Arjen Robben
While Franck Ribery’s contribution to Bayern’s stupendous season were recognised, his counterpart on the right was overlooked, much to the dismay of Bayern fans. Arjen Robben had a great year, scoring plenty and creating many, and was arguably as crucial to Bayern’s winning habits as much as Ribery himself. Dribbles, crosses, headers, powerful left-footed shots, (a)maze-y runs tracking back to provide cover, yes, tracking back (See: Bayern Munich) and the opening goal in the Champions League final, Robben had had a great year.Well, at-least until the final three were announced.
4. Edinson Cavani
One of the best goal poachers across europe, Edinson Cavani is an orthodox No.9 striker but also boasts some fine dribbling skills and a knack for beating players with his imposing physique and he definitely has some pace.
His goal-scoring ability and his all-round attacking play have seen him move to the big-spending Paris Saint-Germans, where he has formed a formidable partnership with another player of his ilk, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And to hold down a regular starting spot at PSG is an achievement in itself and that alone speaks volumes about his quality. With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani upfront, Uruguay could well exceed what is expected of them at the 2014 World Cup.
5. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is another brilliant winger who plies his trade for Chelsea and is arguably Premier League’s best winger since a Portuguese moved on to Real Madrid. He has enjoyed his rise to prominence at Chelsea this season, a fact well-documented especially under “The Happy One”.
His performances have matured, he has certainly improved his defensive play and positioning which has resulted in a drastic improvement in his off-the-ball game, and along with Oscar, he has managed to isolate Juan Mata to the bench. And with Chelsea strikers putting in below-average shifts, his goals and assists and importance are more than crucial to the Blues’ title aspirations.
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