FIFA announced the 10-man shortlist for its annual Best Men’s Player award on Tuesday, with some of the usual suspects making the cut.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the only player to have won the award – it’s only been awarded since 2016, when FIFA’s award split from the Ballon d’Or – is among the favourites to win it again, while Lionel Messi of course made it to the top ten.
Here’s a look at the full shortlist, in the order of likelihood to win the award.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
He finished joint-second in the World Cup scoring charts with four goals that included a stunning hat-trick against Spain, which was completed with a brilliant free-kick that doubled up as a dramatic late equaliser.
Ronaldo would have expected to lead Portugal further in the tournament than a Round of 16 exit, however – and that could cost him this award in a World Cup year.
Mbappe is the man of the moment, and in the aftermath of the World Cup he seems the likeliest challenger to Ronaldo’s throne.
Four goals in France’s triumph, including becoming the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele, have burnished the young man’s reputation, earning him the best young player award at the tournament.
While he starred in the summer, however, Mbappe might just be edged out for year-round production. Ronaldo was brilliant for the second half of Madrid’s campaign and won the Champions League, and it may be tough for the youngster to top that in the voters’ minds.
Not only did Modric shine at the World Cup, with his brilliant midfield play spearheading Croatia’s stunning run to the final – winning the Golden Ball in the process – he was right alongside Ronaldo during Madrid’s Champions League success.
Modric doesn’t bring with him the same weight of goals that Ronaldo does – but being one of the best players in a Champions League-winning side and a World Cup finalist should be enough. Is this the year the powers that be realise goals aren’t everything?
He’s made a great case for himself. And, fun fact: he beat Ronaldo to the Golden Ball at the FIFA Club World Cup last December. A repeat is unlikely – but Modric has earned himself at least a top-three finish.
His willingness to accept a slightly reduced role for France was key to their triumph – though he was still impactful throughout, finishing with four goals – the same as Mbappe.
He was excellent for Atletico Madrid throughout the season, as well, and he scored two goals in the Europa League final, making it a very fine summer for the Frenchman. But perhaps not fine enough to win this award.
Along the way he was his usual brilliant self – or maybe even better than before. In any other year, that would be enough to at least guarantee a top-three finish.
But Barcelona’s limp Champions League exit – which came with a subdued Messi performance in the second leg of the quarter-final – followed by Argentina’s under-par showing at the World Cup, where again he was below par, is going to cost him.
He may not even make the final three-man shortlist.
Hazard was the brightest spot of Chelsea’s shocking domestic slump this season, putting in brilliant displays even as the Blues went from reigning Premier League champions to fifth place, and starring in their FA Cup final win.
But what the Belgian did at the World Cup earned him any absolution he may have needed.
Hazard captained Belgium to their best-ever finish at the tournament, lifting the side and looking their best player. He came in second behind Modric in Golden Ball voting.
Still, given the names above him, he’s a longshot to win.
Kevin de Bruyne
Choosing between the two Belgians over the back of their performances from the last year comes down to splitting hairs.
While Hazard was shining for a struggling team, De Bruyne was looking absolutely stunning as Manchester City ran riot on their way to the Premier League title.
In comparison to his league form, De Bruyne was slightly subdued at the World Cup – though still nearly as brilliant.
He and Hazard could easily be swapped, although in the grand scheme of things, both are equally unlikely to win the award.
Harry Kane sets such high standards for himself that missing out on the Premier League Golden Boot by two goals is a disappointment for him now. His 30 goals still ensured Tottenham kept punching above their weight to secure a Champions League spot again.
And missing out on one Golden Boot spurred him onto another, as he captained England in a thrilling run to the World Cup semi-finals and scored six goals in the process to finish as the tournament’s top scorer.
Kane finished 24th in last year’s voting. Even though he won’t vault all the way to first, a guaranteed top-10 finish is some rise.
It’s a cruel twist of fate that Salah has been pushed this far down on the list. Who knows what would have happened had he not gotten injured in the Champions League final?
It may not have been enough for Liverpool to overcome Real Madrid on the night, but Salah would have at least been a more potent force at the World Cup.
The truth is, however, that just about everyone on the shortlist comes near, matches, or even tops Salah in terms of club performances last season, especially when it comes to trophies, and they all beat him on World Cup showing.
Raphael Varane can make one claim that nobody else can – he’s the only one who won both the Champions League and World Cup this season. If it comes down to just trophies, Varane towers above them all.
He was crucial in France’s glorious run, scoring in the quarter-final and looking a much-improved defender throughout. However, his form for Madrid was patchy, even as he remained part of the backbone of their European triumph.
It’s a shame that no defender has been named the world’s best player since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – but Varane isn’t quite ready to break that run.
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