Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Diego Costa of Chelsea are among the shortlisted candidates for the coveted Ballon d’Or for football’s best player. Another player who could make a splash at the ceremony, to be held in Paris on 31 January, is Cristiano Ronaldo. On the books of any club could be Andrés Iniesta of Barcelona, this season’s Ballon d’Or winner, and Gareth Bale of Real Madrid.
Why have club footballers not traditionally won the award since Luka Modric took it in 2009? The only previous winner from a big club was Toni Kroos in 2014. That says something about how little respect the Ballon d’Or now has. This year’s players have taken a huge gamble by leaving Europe for the summer. World Cup qualifiers have just started, so the dozen or so hopefuls are trying to replicate the form that enabled them to shine in Russia.
True to form, Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Real Madrid, scored four goals in that week, and he will only get more acclaim if he leads Portugal to a third consecutive major tournament. One common prediction is that he will run away with the Ballon d’Or and the Ballon d’Or then becomes the glossier and better known Ballon d’Or – but it’s worth remembering that Platini had only just been cleared of unethical footballers in 1995 when he won the award.