Ballon D'Or Shortlist Announced
Earlier this morning, FIFA released their annual shortlist for the prestigious Ballon D'Or trophy, an award given to the best footballer of the calendar year. This year, the players are all as brilliant as usual, but we have selected for you the top five favorites being considered for the award.
Cristiano Ronaldo, as usual, is almost undoubtedly one of the top two players in world football. Between himself and Lionel Messi, the duo have won all six of the last Ballon D'Or awards. After four years of Messi dominance, last year Ronaldo finally reclaimed the title of best player on Earth, and now he will hope to defend it.
So far this year, the Portuguese winger has scored 21 goals and added 8 assists in 25 appearances, earning an average Opta rating of 7.92. These goalscoring feats, combined with a Copa del Rey and "Decima" Champions League win from last year that Ronaldo spearheaded, are surefire clues that Ronaldo may again be voted first.
It's not a Ballon D'Or discussion until both Cristiano Ronaldo and
Lionel Messi have been mentioned. The only player to ever have won four straight Ballon D'Or awards, the diminutive Argentinian has been amazing fans and pundits alike for over half a decade now. Due to a sports hernia, though, Messi missed a month earlier this season, which could be a big pitfall for him.
In the time has been fit, though, Messi has made the best of his 17 appearances, scoring 11 goals and chipping in with 7 assists, earning himself a an average Opta rating of 7.55. Though this season hasn't quite been up to the Argentine's magical standards, a second place World Cup finish could help see him over the finish line to win this competition again.
Gareth Bale is a relatively new addition to the talk surrounding the best player in the world. After his world-record €106M move to Real Madrid from Tottenham, Bale has terrorized one wing for Real Madrid while Ronaldo devastated the other, creating the greatest pacey threat the world has seen in a long time.
This year, the Welshman has managed 7 goals and 12 assists in 21 appearances with an Opta average rating of 7.41, mainly playing as a provider for the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo. Bale's electric pace and downhill dribbling have turned him into a world superstar, and he is a heavy favorite to finish top three at least in this year's voting.
Neymar is, similar to Gareth Bale, one of the new names on the list of best players in the world. While Bale and Ronaldo tear it up at the Santiago Bernabeu, Neymar and Messi scintillate at the Camp Nou. Neymar, despite his tender age, has already amassed 59 Brazil caps and scored 35 goals, shocking all of his doubters.
Despite being only 22 years of age, Neymar has scored 14 goals and 6 assists in 20 appearances so far this season with an Opta average rating of 7.72. A fourth place finish at the summer's World Cup and some excellent goals over the last twelve months have given this youngster a great chance at placing.
Marco Reus is perhaps the most surprising addition to the five man shortlist for the Ballon D'Or award. The German left winger, despite missing the World Cup with torn ankle ligaments, has consistently been one of Borussia Dortmund's most talented players during the Klopp and now Laudrup eras, scoring and assisting with ease.
So far this campaign, Reus has picked up 8 goals and 8 assists in 20 appearances after recovering from injuries and sustained an Opta rating of 7.42. A consistent game changer for der BVB, it would perhaps be a massive shock and yet a semi-deserved appearance in the top three should the German find a way to get place in the Ballon D'Or voting.