Will Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or 2016? I think so!

Published: October 29, 2016
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The 30-man shortlist for this year’s award is dominated by players from the Spanish La Liga, with a total of 13 players. PHOTO> TWITTER

A 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or was announced this week by ‘France Football’, one of Europe’s most reputable sports magazines, after the world football governing body, FIFA, ended its association with the Ballon d’Or earlier this year. The footballing magazine spent an entire day unveiling the 30-man shortlist for this year’s prize, ahead of the gala awards ceremony in January, with the venue for the occasion yet to be decided.

Since 1956, the prestigious award has annually been given out by the French publication and it was awarded to the best European player of the previous footballing season – until 1994, after which it was given to the best player (from any continent) who played for a European club. In 2010, however, FIFA and France Football struck a multi-million-dollar deal, thought to be worth around $1.7million per year, for six years, and merged the award – the FIFA Ballon d’Or – replacing the FIFA World Player of the Year. Following the completion of the deal, it was mutually decided that the deal would not be renewed and the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards will be separate from 2016 onwards – which means that there could well be two different winners of the ‘best player of the world’ awards.

The 30-man shortlist for this year’s award is dominated by players from the Spanish La Liga, with a total of 13 players. There are seven players from the English Premier League, including Englishman Jamie Vardy and Algerian wizard Riyad Mahrez, who both played instrumental roles in Leicester City’s historic title triumph. Swede superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the world’s most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba, who both play for Manchester United now, are on the shortlist as well for their brilliant campaigns with Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus respectively.

The complete 30-man shortlist is as follows:

Goalkeepers

Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon & Portugal), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur & France), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Defenders

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid & Uruguay), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain), Pepe (Real Madrid & Portugal)

Midfielders

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain), Koke (Atletico Madrid & Spain), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid & Germany), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City & Algeria), Luka Modric (Real Madrid & Croatia), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United & France), Paul Pogba (Juventus & France) – now plays for Manchester United, Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich & Chile), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Forwards

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City & Argentina), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund & Gabon), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal), Paulo Dybala (Juventus & Argentina), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid & France), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli & Argentina) – [now plays for Juventus], Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germaine & Sweden) – [now plays for Manchester United], Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich & Poland), Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina), Luis Suarez (Barcelona & Uruguay), Neymar Jr. (Barcelona & Brazil), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City & England)

There seem to be quite a lot of obvious choices in this list. However, some eyebrows were raised when the names of Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, Arsenal’s mercurial attacker Alexis Sanchez, or Leicester City’s midfield rock N’Golo Kante were missing from the list, who each had remarkable campaigns. Kane was the Premier League’s top-scorer, whereas Sanchez won the Copa America with Chile, and Kante helped France reach the final of the Euro 2016.

Although the race for the top-prize is well and truly on, the five most-likely winners of the prize, in no particular order, are as follows:

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)

The flying Welsh-wizard had a remarkable year with both club and country, scoring 19 goals for Real Madrid in all competitions, winning the ‘Undecima’ – or 11th Champions League crown – and scored three for Wales at the European Championships, taking the dark horses of the tournament to an almost-magical run to the semi-finals – where they were eventually beaten by the would-be champions Portugal.

Gareth Bale, who plays a key role in Wales journey in Euro 2016, has scored in every game till now.
Photo: Reuters

Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid & France)

The quick, left-footed French dynamite was in scintillating form throughout the year, scoring a remarkable 32 goals for Atletico Madrid – taking them to the Champions League final – and was the top-scorer at the Euro 2016, with six goals in six games for France – taking his nation to the final. His goal against Iceland, specially, was a thing of immense beauty! He was awarded the Best Player of La Liga 2015-16, and was chosen as the Best Player of Euro 2016 as well.

France’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates at the end of the match.
Photo: Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)

The Portuguese super-human had a phenomenal year for club and country, winning the unprecedented 11th Champions League crown with Real Madrid, scoring 51 goals and assisting a further 15 goals in all competitions, becoming the record-holder for the most goals in a single Champions League campaign with 16 goals – and scoring the winning penalty against cross-city archrivals Atletico Madrid in the final. Ronaldo also scored three goals at the European Championship, getting injured in the final, but still vocally-rallied his troops as their leader from the sideline, winning the championship and deservingly lifting the trophy for Portugal as its captain.

Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during Portugals match against Wales in Euro 2016.
Photo: Reuters

Luis Suarez (Barcelona & Uruguay)

One-third of the world’s most lethal striking trio, Luis Suarez scored an astonishing 53 goals for Barcelona in 49 appearances, laying on a further 21 assists for his teammates, and took Barcelona to the top of the La Liga summit for the year 2015-2016. He finished the season with a league-high 34 goals and 15 assists, was the top scorer in the top-five European leagues, and the second top-assist provider. He is the only player in the 21st century to have a hand in seven goals in a single match (four goals, three assists vs. Deportivo La Coruna) at the backend of last season. Lethal!

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez celebrates his second goal against Granada on 14 May.
Photo: Reuters

Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)

Arguably the greatest player of his generation and one of the most watchable footballers of all time, the little Argentine magician is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or, had a somewhat subdued season by his own ultra-high standards, scoring ‘just’ 41 goals and making 26 assists in Barcelona’s title-winning season. He suffered heartache in Argentina’s final loss to Chile at the Copa America 2016, where he scored a total of five goals in three starts.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after he scored a goal.
Photo: Reuters

Ronaldo the favourite for the prize?

In terms of determining who the most influential player was in leading his club and country to unprecedented glories, all fingers point to the achievements of the Portuguese superhuman, the three-time winner – Cristiano Ronaldo. Having scored a remarkable 51 goals and assisting a further 15 in just 47 appearances for Real Madrid – compared to closest competitors Barcelona’s Louis Suarez’s 53 goals and 21 assists in 49 appearances, and Lionel Messi’s 41 goals and 21 assists in 48 appearances – he leads the list because of his exploits with his national team – giving him an unfamiliar edge of the Barcelona duo of Suarez and Messi – having won Euro 2016 as the team’s captain.

Ronaldo scored two vital goals – both equalizers – against Hungary in the group stages in a game that finished 3-3, and allowed Portugal to progress through to the knockout round. His goal with a back-heel flick was one of the best goals scored at the championship. Ronaldo then scored a mighty captain’s goal against Wales in the semi-final, a game which ended 2-0 in Portugal’s favour. Portugal then went onto win the final against hosts France, after extra time, in a match that saw the Portuguese captain become a leader off the pitch after he got injured in the early stages of the match. The sight of an injured Ronaldo leading his team’s charge and chanting instructions from the dugout made for some of the most memorable moments of Euro 2016.

Ronaldo’s achievements for Portugal came only after the Portuguese scored 16 goals for Real Madrid in the Champions League – one goal less than the record 17, which Ronaldo himself set two seasons ago. He scored a hat trick in the second-leg of the quarter-final versus Germany’s Wolfsburg, having been trailing 2-0 from the first-leg, which allowed Real Madrid to progress through to the semi-final with an aggregate score of 3-2. Having been mildly anonymous in the final versus Atletico Madrid – a game that went to penalties after a 1-1 score line after 120 minutes – Ronaldo stepped up to take the last penalty for Real Madrid, and calmly dispatched it before running away in jubilation and solidifying his place in Real Madrid folklore.

The question still remains as to who would win the prize this year – Ronaldo? Messi? Suarez? The race to win the Ballon d’Or is well and truly on, with journalists from all over Europe getting to choose who they think is the rightful winner to this year’s prestigious award. For us football lovers, January 2017 cannot come sooner!

Ahsan Mirza

Ahsan Mirza

The author is an electrical engineer by day, and a wordsmith thereafter.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mm

    While he certainly is a favourite to win the award, Zlatan, Griezmann and of course Messi also have a fair chance.Recommend