PARIS: Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe are in the running to break Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 10-year dominance of the Ballon d’Or.
The World Cup finalist and champion, respectively, have been named among 30 nominees for the men’s trophy awarded by France Football magazine to the best player in the world.
The last player to win the trophy before Ronaldo and Messi took over was Kaka in 2007. This year, Ronaldo and Messi have not been as dominant, leaving the door open for a new winner.
Portugal captain and Juventus forward Ronaldo has won the award for the past two years and five times in all, a record he shares with Argentina’s Messi.
Ronaldo’s nomination comes after the 33-year-old last week denied rape allegations levelled against him by a woman who sued him in court in the United States.
Sportswear maker Nike Inc and video game maker Electronic Arts Inc, who both have worked with the five-times Champions League winner, said last Thursday they were concerned about the allegations.
European champions Real Madrid dominate the nominees with eight players, including Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Wales forward Gareth Bale.
Modric, a World Cup runner-up with Croatia, won the Golden Ball as the best player at this year’s World Cup in Russia and last month beat Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to claim FIFA’s The Best men’s player award after Messi was surprisingly left off the final three-man list.
Bale, who scored two goals in Real’s triumph in the final of the Champions League against Liverpool including a spectacular overhead kick, is joined by club team-mates Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Isco, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos.
Mbappe won the World Cup for France in Russia, where he became the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958. France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final. He also helped Paris St Germain to a domestic treble last season.
Antoine Griezmann, another World Cup winner with France and Europa League champion at Atletico Madrid, is nominated alongside international team-mates, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba.
Kevin De Bruyne was nominated for helping Manchester City win the Premier League and Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals while Salah enjoyed a breathtaking first season with Liverpool, bagging 32 goals in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard gives Chelsea another player in the running after starring alongside De Bruyne at the World Cup, with England’s Golden Boot winner Harry Kane also included.
Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and PSG’s Neymar are nominated as are two other prolific South American strikers: Uruguayans Edinson Cavani of PSG and Luis Suarez of Barcelona.
Liverpool’s Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino and Uruguay’s rugged defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid also got the nod.
Four goalkeepers are also among the 30 — Thibaut Courtois of Belgium and Real Madrid, Liverpool and Brazil stopper Alisson Becker, Tottenham Hotspur’s France World Cup winner Hugo Lloris and Atletico’s Jan Oblak.
Also making the cut are Juve’s Mario Mandzukic and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, while Barcelona are also represented by Croat defender Ivan Rakitic.
Among prominent names who did not make the cut was PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who finished fourth last year but was penalised by Italy’s absence from the World Cup.
LYON DOMINATE WOMEN’S LIST
For the first time, a Ballon d’Or for women players will be awarded this year, with Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais accounting for seven of the 15 nominees.
France internationals Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Wendie Renard are joined on the list by Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan, England’s Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Japan defender Saki Kumagai.
Brazil’s Marta, crowned best women’s player for a record sixth time at last month’s FIFA awards, is also in contention after her role in winning the Copa America.
Other nominees are Pernille Harder, Lindsey Horan, Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Lieke Martens, Megan Rapinoe and Christine Sinclair.
In another first, the best under-21 player will receive the Kopa Trophy. Mbappe is the favourite.
The Ballon d’Or, which was first won by Englishman Stanley Matthews in 1956, is decided by a ballot of journalists from around the world
The award merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year prize from 2010-15 to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or, but returned to France Football in 2016 while FIFA established The Best awards.
The winners of the prestigious men’s and women’s awards will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on December 3 in Paris.