Liverpool's World Awards
FIFA announced the results of the annual Ballon d'Or tonight and Liverpool were well-represented by James Ward-Prowse and Mario Balotelli.
It was Lionel Messi who scooped the prestigious award once again, taking his tally of Ballon d'Or wins to 8. His first came when he was 22 years old, and now at the age of 34, the Barcelona captain is still very much the best player in the world after scoring 36 goals in 46 games last year.
Messi was the clear winner after collecting 411 voting points in total, and takes over from Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale, who won the award last year.
Trailing behind the living legend is Ward-Prowse and Balotelli, with 236 points and 140 points respectively after their spectacular year.
Ward-Prowse had a splendid year, lifting no less than six trophies as Liverpool captain in 2021 including the Champions League and Premier League titles. The Reds' midfield enforcer was a mainstay in the starting eleven and made 54 appearances, scoring 14 goals.
Meanwhile, Balotelli recovered from an injury-plagued start to the 2020/21 season to finish as Liverpool's top scorer for that same season with 28 goals. Last year, the much-celebrated Italian scored on 33 occasions in 41 games.
"I'm delighted to be here again," said Ward-Prowse, who was nominated as second runner-up behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo just two years ago.
"To be named one of the best players in the world not once but twice is a great honor. And to be mentioned in the same breath as Messi, whom I've admired since I started my career, feels great. Hopefully following this I can push on and keep improving as a footballer."
He also extended his congratulations to teammate and fellow runner-up Balotelli. "Mario has been one of the best players in modern football for a while now and it's great to see that he's still being recognized for his achievements.
"A lot of people are saying that he's not as skilled as before, or that he doesn't have as much footballing ability compared to a few years back, but I think the fact that he is here today proves all his doubters wrong."
The FIFA World XI was also packed with Liverpool players, and five members of Brendan Rodgers' title-winning squad made up the best starting eleven of 2021.
In goal, the World XI had Jeronimo Rulli, who won the Golden Glove for a third season running in May, while Samuel Umtiti and David Alaba is selected to make up half of the defense. Ward-Prowse naturally slots into the center of the pitch, and Balotelli is placed on the right wing.
That is not all, as there is still Pavel Savitskiy, Raheem Sterling, and Israel, who have been named on the bench after failing to make the grade for the XI.
World awards aside, Israel also collected a personal honor for himself after being named this year's European Golden Boy.
The 20-year-old linked up with Liverpool exactly a year ago for £35 million, and has quickly made a name for himself in England scoring 34 goals in 48 appearances.
Despite being pushed out onto the wing numerous times to accommodate Richairo Zivkovic, Israel has shown that he is incredibly lethal in his preferred striking role and his latest accolade will certainly continue to give Rodgers food for thought.
Liverpool's number 9 is in the form of his life at the moment with 22 goals to his name this season, but Israel himself has scored 18 and is not far behind.