World Player Awards 2017
With the Christmas festivities well and truly over and the turn of the year eclipsing, the year of 2018 stands before us with many more great challenges and excitements. However, before we can move forwards, we must look back at the star performers of 2017. 2016 saw Lionel Messi win his third Ballon d'Or in a row (his seventh in total), with team mate Luis Suárez finishing runner-up and rival Cristiano Ronaldo finishing in third. Was Messi able to extend his record and win the prestigious award a fourth time in a row and an eighth time overall?
Third Place: In third place this year was Chelsea's Eden Hazard. The Belgian winger is 27 just seven days in to the new year and has become a true Chelsea icon, five and a half years in to his career with The Blues. His pace and skill are his main assets on the pitch as he can take on any defender in the world with grace and elegance. When you combine these attributes with his creativity and intelligence on a football field, along with his eye for goal, you are faced with the complete attacking midfielder. The 2016/2017 season was a fruitful one for Hazard and his individual performances led to him being named the Barclays Premier League's Players' Player Of The Year, and he also made the Barclays Premier League Team Of The Season. His performances in Europe were outstanding too, as he was named as the third best player in Europe for the 2016/2017 season. While Chelsea finished 3rd in the league and were sent sprawling out of the Champions League first knock-out round last season, they did win the FA Cup and that was largely down to the brilliance of the Belgian winger. The calender year has been good to Eden Hazard who clocked up 20 goals and 13 assists in 55 appearances, which earned him 177 voting points.
Second Place: It was Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid who was runner-up this year, making it the eighth time that he has been amongst the three finalists but not won it; a sad record in itself. The 32 year old Portuguese attacker was searching for his third Ballon d'Or, with his other wins coming in 2008 and 2013. It has been a humbling year for Cristiano Ronaldo as he was handed the captaincy at Real Madrid, due to the 36 year old Iker Casillas now becoming Real Madrid's second choice goalkeeper behind Keylor Navas. Ronaldo has plenty of captaincy experience, of course, having held the armband for his country for over eleven years now! Ronaldo's goalscoring record has taken a hit over recent years but he has contributed more to the overall play for both club and country and has become more than just an influential attacker, but also an influential figure for the whole club. Cristiano Ronaldo lead Real Madrid to their 34th league title in the 2016/2017 season, as they finished just one point above rivals FC Barcelona. It was a season of two trophy wins for Los Blancos and Ronaldo as they beat Granada in the final of the Copa del Ray. Unfortunately for Ronaldo and Real, Barcelona humiliated them in a 4-1 aggregate win in the Champions League semi-finals. However, there was plenty of cause to celebrate for Ronaldo as he was named as UEFA Champions League (2016/2017) Best Player and the Best Player In Europe in 2016/2017. Scoring 27 goals and assisting 9 in 51 appearances saw Ronaldo claim a staggering 279 voting points, but it was not enough to win Ballon d'Or.
First Place: The winner of the Ballon d'Or 2017, for the fourth time in a row and in eighth time in total, is Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona! The 30 year old Argentine attacker has been a key man for Los Culés and for world football for over a decade now and he is the player who every kid grows up dreaming of being. Alongside Luis Suárez and Neymar, Lionel Messi completes one of the most fierce attacks in football history and has more magic in his left boot than all the tales of Harry Potter combined. It was a disappointing league season for Messi and Barcelona as they missed out on the league title by a mere point to rivals Real Madrid but they made that up in Europe as the tore apart their rivals in the semi-finals before putting three past Bayern Munich in the final as they won 3-1, with Messi & Suárez being involved in each goal. Messi's form in Europe recognised him as the second Best Player in Europe for the 2016/2017 season. Disappointment came in the UEFA Super Cup as Barcelona finished runners-up, and they could do no better or worse in the Club World Cup as they failed to win in the final. This cloud of disappointment cannot shade over Messi's exploits as he was named as the best player in Liga BBVA for the 2016/2017 season and was the Barcelona's supporters' player of the season too! He may be growing older and he is now on the wrong side of thirty, but 28 goals and 9 assists in 52 appearances saw Messi earn 481 voting points which was more than enough for him to win Ballon d'Or.
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