A look at who wins this year's Ballon d'Or if Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are out of the equation

Alex Rea 10/10/2017
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Three goalkeepers, four defenders, five midfielders and 18 forwards make up the 30-man shortlist for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award but in reality you can do away with 28 of the names.

Indeed, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will again be the clear candidates to take home the coveted prize but this year’s ceremony feels like a motion towards the next generation.

At 32 and 30 respectively, Ronaldo and Messi are entering the final phases of their careers and while they’ve adjusted their game so well – they could do so again of course – there’s no doubting the gap between themselves and the rest has narrowed.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to pick our top three candidates for the award with the Portuguese and Argentine superstars taken out of the equation.

3. HARRY KANE

Of the seven Premier League stars to have made the 30-man nomination, Kane is a candidate to enter the top three.

Now, some corners will field their argument that he can’t even be considered world class yet never mind a Ballon d’Or contender but then the basis of that point is mainly formed in the fact he plays for Tottenham, a side not among the true elite, and England, a team starved of verve and quality.

Put Kane in a Real Madrid or Barcelona shirt and on last season’s stunning exploits he unequivocally joins the debate. For the calendar year he’s scored 43 times in 37 games – including six hat-tricks – for club and country and if that record was owned by Ronaldo or Messi then the collective drooling would be utterly drenching.

While he doesn’t own a Champions League medal, he has for the previous two campaigns notched the Premier League’s Golden Boot award and that in itself is a prestigious achievement.

The 24-year-old’s involvement last season is carrying through into this campaign and he’s establishing himself as one of the premier all-round centre-forwards. His hold up play is superb, his passes and first touches are crisp and he’s adding headed-goals to his repertoire.

Having displayed his ability in the Premier League, now this season in the Champions League and potentially next year at the World Cup, Kane has the greater ceiling to one day claim the award if it’s based on ability rather the trophy cabinet.

2. SERGIO RAMOS

Only three defenders have been crowned Ballon d’Or winners and the last was 11 years ago. Fabio Cannavaro picked up the prize in 2006 as the World Cup winner with Italy joined an exclusive list alongside Germany pair Franz Beckenbauer and Matthias Sammer.

With the way the game is analysed and consumed, defenders haven’t been the fashionable choice as bias is predictably leaned towards to goalscoring forwards rather than those who perform the game’s other art form.

But amid the myriad of striking talents, there is one defender who stands alone – Sergio Ramos. As both the backbone and captain of a resurgent Spain and dominant La Liga and Champions League double winners Real Madrid, the 31-year-old is an undervalued game general who not only barks out orders but carries them out himself.

It’s not his duty, but considering the prize is ordinarily reserved for goalscorers, Ramos’s aerial predatory in front of goal has become the stuff of legend.

He is one of the most influential players in world football and while his ultra-competitive nature is both a virtue and a vice, the Spaniard in our eyes would make the top three.

Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos with the Champions League trophy

Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos with the Champions League trophy

1. NEYMAR

Ultimately the reason Neymar left Barcelona was because of his desire to step out of the large shadow cast by Lionel Messi.

And that’s not just from a footballing perspective but also a marketing one given the boundless opportunities which arise from being the Ballon d’Or winner.

While the Brazilian might not be the most popular choice the chronic lack of form Luis Suarez is exhibiting is indication enough of his stretching influence at Barca.

A pivotal part of the dynamic and lauded MSN trio, he wasn’t as prolific as previous campaigns but his importance grew. At 25 Neymar is the standout in his age group and below with his ingenuity and talent obvious.

Ironically, it was against his new employers, PSG, that he showed his world-beating best form as he scored Barcelona’s fourth and fifth goal before laying on an exquisite assist for Sergi Roberto’s winner in the Champions League last-16 fightback.

In Tite’s Brazil he has been the star man, transitioning from leader of a faltering team under Dunga to central figure in a side which is beginning to thrive.

Having been third behind Ronaldo and Messi in 2015, he is the most favoured to take over the reins going forward, though PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe will feature strongly in future.

Neymar and Messi celebrate last season

Neymar and Messi celebrate last season

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Brazilian legend Kaka hints at retirement and plots following Zinedine Zidane into management

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Kaka.

AC Milan and Brazil legend Kaka has revealed that he no longer enjoys playing football and is considering hanging up his boots at the end of the year.

The 35-year-old is currently edging towards the end of his glittering career with Orlando City in the MLS.

With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it’s looks likely he may retire sooner than many believed.

He told Globoesporte: “I don’t find enjoyment playing football anymore. I feel pain after every match. My body feels it and at the age of 35 it’s hard to recuperate”

Kaka, a 2002 World Cup winner, is considered one of the greatest players of his generation and enjoyed an illustration career in Europe, leading Milan to Champions League glory in 2007.

But luckily for football fans, the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner wants to continue his involvement in the sport and is plotting a career in management.

He added: “I’d like to do like Zizou. He stopped playing, took some time off, he saw that he liked to coach and paid his dues in the youth system. I could do like him.”

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Arsenal target Man United forward Anthony Martial while PSG will battle Barcelona for Liverpool star

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The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines.

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

ANTHONY MARTIAL

Arsenal are exploring the possibility of signing Manchester United forward Anthony Martial as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, according to the Mirror .

The 21-year-old has largely operated from the bench this season with his starting role in the team jeopardised by Jose Mourinho’s preference for Marcus Rashford and Arsene Wenger may look to counter on that.

RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

As is well documented, Sanchez’s deal is up in the summer and with him unlikely to renew, the Gunners need to look at alternatives and perhaps strike quick in January.

Martial is more than deserving of a regular starting berth and if he doesn’t get that at United then it could be difficult to keep onto him. It just depends on whether United would be willing to sell to a domestic rival.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO

Paris Saint-Germain will lock horns with Barcelona for the signature of Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, reports Sport.

The Ligue 1 giants have apparently already contacted his representatives and will lodge a €150million offer for his services.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT

Neymar and Coutinho are good friends and no doubt the Brazil team-mates have discussed a prospective move during the international break.

Barca will unlikely give up the ghost and Liverpool have already shown they will not budge in their stance not to sell a key player so prepare yourself for another soap opera.

Neymar (L) and Philippe Coutinho joke during Brazil training

Neymar (L) and Philippe Coutinho joke during Brazil training

SERGIO AGUERO

Manchester City are plotting a £20million January bid for Alexis Sanchez and in turn AC Milan will attempt to prize Sergio Arguero away from the Etihad Stadium.

According to the Daily Mail, Pep Guardiola would consider letting the Argentine leave if he can seal a deal for Sanchez.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT

Feels like the summer all over again with the same rumours, eh? Anyway, if Arsenal can find a replacement for Sanchez, they will likely allow him to leave and the knock-on effect will mean Aguero could be available.

Man City attacker Aguero

Man City attacker Aguero

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