PSG star Neymar emerging as Europe's top creative force to bolster Ballon d'Or claim

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In March this year, Barcelona pulled off one of the most incredible and high-profile comebacks in modern football and despite some of the iconic imagery that emerged afterward, it wasn’t Lionel Messi they had to thank.

A 4-0 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain had left the Catalans on the brink of Champions League elimination in the Round of 16 but an extraordinary 6-1 victory at the Nou Camp fueled by an irresistible Neymar performance saw them through against all odds.

The Brazilian scored two of the three goals in the final seven minutes and even set up Sergi Roberto for the dramatic winner.

It’s that kind of display that sticks out when the votes are cast for the Ballon d’Or. It was that performance that elevated Neymar to a new level, one approaching that occupied by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ironically, PSG are also his chosen platform to finally stand alongside the ‘big two’, with his own golden accolade in hand.

Life in the French capital has begun well for Neymar, a minor feud with star striker Edinson Cavani aside, but outscoring Messi and Ronaldo may still see him fall short of the required votes. However, he’s already well ahead of the duo in a creative capacity. In fact, he’s well ahead of everyone in Europe.

In the 2017/18 season, the Brazilian has registered five assists in six outings so far, only Andres Guardado (five in six), David Silva (six in seven) and Miralem Pjanic (five in five) have fared better in that department across the top five European leagues.


He probably should have even more assists to his name given that he’s at the heart of nearly every PSG attack, creating chance after chance. In fact, he’s averaged 4.8 key passes per game this season, Kevin de Bruyne and Lorenzo Isigne come closest with 3.4.

Neymar also leads the way in terms of dribbles per game (7.7), making inroads into the opposition’s defence at every opportunity. The man who comes closest to him in Europe? You guessed it – Messi with six dribbles per games.

All the facts point to one inescapable truth. Neymar is currently the most creative player in league football across Europe. Can he maintain his stunning form though and build on it in the Champions League?

The Brazilian is rapidly approaching his peak and is desperate to end the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly over the Ballon d’Or and latest evidence suggests he is maturing and becoming a more rounded superstar.

It may not be this time around, but at this rate, it won’t be long until he will be the one to topple.

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar among 30-man shortlist for Ballon d'Or award

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar headline an impressive 30-man shortlist unveiled on Monday for the 2017 Ballon d’Or world footballer of the year award.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo is attempting to match Lionel Messi’s record by winning the prize for a fifth time after his starring role in Real Madrid’s first La Liga and Champions League double in 59 years.

Ronaldo has claimed the prestigious honour in three of the past four years, with Argentina standout Messi last collecting the trophy in 2015 following Barcelona’s treble-winning campaign.

The pair have combined to win the award – organised by France football magazine – every year since former Brazil and AC Milan star Kaka won it in 2007.

Ronaldo remains the strong favourite despite still searching for his first league goal in the 2017/18 season after serving a five-match domestic ban following his dismissal in the Spanish Super Cup.

Messi has profited from his rival’s absence to spearhead Barcelona’s stunning start to the campaign, scoring 11 goals in the first seven matches while adding two more in Europe.

But both players remain in danger of missing the 2018 World Cup.

European champions Portugal could be forced to negotiate next month’s play-offs unless they defeat Group B leaders Switzerland in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

Two-time World Cup winners Argentina are outside the top five in South American qualifying ahead of a tricky trip to Ecuador in their last match, although victory would at the least put them into a two-legged play-off against New Zealand.

Brazilian forward Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain in August for a world-record 222 million euros ($264 million) to step out of Messi’s shadow at Barcelona.

The 25-year-old has enjoyed a seamless transition to French football with a return of eight goals in as many games as PSG look to upset European football’s established order.

Real account for seven of the nominees with Ronaldo joined by Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco and Karim Benzema.

PSG are the second best represented club with three players — Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, who is set to seal a 180-million-euro move next summer after arriving on a season-long loan from Monaco.

Harry Kane, one of 12 players nominated for the first time, is the lone Englishman on the shortlist, but there are seven Premier League nominees in total as Chelsea duo N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard were recognised for their contribution to last season’s title-winning campaign.

Liverpool strikers Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho are also included along with Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, Venezuela Women’s forward Deyna Castellanos and goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke of South African outfit Baroka are the three finalists for the Puskas Award – a FIFA accolade for the “most beautiful goal” of the season.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar headline 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist announced on Monday

Star trio: Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo.

The 30-man shortlist for this year’s Ballon d’Or was announced on Monday, with Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo headlining the list.

France Football, which adjudicates the award, has staggered the nominees throughout the day, with 15 being revealed in the afternoon on Monday and the other 15 being announced later in the day.

Ronaldo is the favourite to win the award, after his 10 goals across the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final of last season’s Champions League which led Real Madrid to an historic back-to-back triumph.

Messi has had yet another stellar season, but Barcelona’s inability to win either La Liga or the Champions League will likely go against him. This year is likely too early for Neymar to truly contend, although he’s elevated himself to the “best of the rest” status behind Ronaldo and Messi. Harry Kane was nominated for the prestigious award for the first time. The Tottenham striker has been the subject of a fierce debate over whether or not he can be termed “world-class”, and his inclusion in the list of the top 30 players in the world certainly strengthens his case.

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