PARIS: Lionel Messi will have Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk as rivals for the 2019 Ballon d’Or award. But not Neymar.
When the long list of 30 candidates was announced Monday in the city where Neymar has played for more than two years at Paris St Germain the Brazil star’s name was missing from the nominations by a global voting panel of journalists.
Messi and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the individual award organised by France Football magazine was broken by Luka Modric last December.
Modric is also absent one year after he swept the Ballon d’Or and FIFA best player awards after a stellar 2018 with Real Madrid and Croatia.
World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is favored to add a Ballon d’Or to her FIFA award won last month.
Rapinoe dominated the Women’s World Cup, on and off the field, in the summer.
She was joint top scorer and was voted player of the tournament as she led the United States to victory in France in July.
The 34-year-old Reign FC playmaker, already a campaigner for LGBT rights and gender equality, made headlines during the tournament by publicly taking on US President Donald Trump.
She is joined on a 20-woman list by team-mates Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. Defending her title is Ada Hegerberg, winner of the inaugural women’s award, from Europe’s dominant club team Olympique Lyonnais who have six nominees.
Neymar has twice placed third in Ballon d’Or voting, both times finishing behind Messi and Ronaldo. Moving out of Messi’s shadow in Barcelona, where they won a Champions League title together in 2015, has not delivered the personal acclaim Neymar sought.
Messi won his sixth FIFA award last month, edging Van Dijk who starred in Liverpool’s Champions League-winning team. Van Dijk would be the first defender topping the poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
The Liverpool centre-back was among seven team-mates nominated, including Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino. They also won the Copa America with a Brazil team that managed without an injured Neymar.
Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum also figured in the five nominees from a resurgent Netherlands team. No Dutch player has won since Marco van Basten in 1992.
Liverpool forwards Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are among a six-strong African challenge, including Mane’s Senegal team-mate, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is also on the list, along with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Tottenham Hotspur’s South Korean forward Son Heung-min — the only Asian player on the list — and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made the cut, but there was no room for their team-mate Harry Kane, while Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was another high-profile omission.
The award winners will be unveiled on December 2 during a ceremony in Paris after a voting process including journalists from 180 different countries.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019