Leicester City heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, stars in their team’s fairytale run to the Premier League title, have been named on a 30-player longlist for the 2016 Ballon d’Or.
Vardy – who has enjoyed a meteoric rise from amateur football to rub shoulders with the game’s biggest names – is the sole Englishman nominated for the prestigious prize awarded by France Football magazine, which is organising the trophy on its own after the end of a partnership with FIFA.
The Foxes pair are among eight Premier League stars on the list.
Three-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo and last year’s victor Lionel Messi, who has won it five times altogether, are among the favourites to take the prize once again.
Ronaldo, who took home the award in 2008, 2013 and 2014, set himself up for a potential fourth Ballon d’Or when captaining Portugal to Euro 2016 glory and helping Real Madrid to an 11th Champions League triumph.
Other members of Madrid’s Champions League-winning campaign have been recognised as well in Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
Pepe and Ronaldo are also joined on the list by Sporting Lisbon’s Rui Patricio, who kept goal in Portugal’s run to Euro glory.
Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann is another leading contender. However, his compatriot Karim Benzema is not on the list, the Real Madrid striker’s year having been overshadowed by the sextape blackmail affair which led to him being frozen out of the national team ahead of the Euros.
The winner will be determined by a vote of journalists — national team captains and managers will no longer have a say after the ending of the five-year deal between France Football and FIFA.
The first Ballon d’Or was won by Stanley Matthews, at the time with Blackpool, who beat Alfredo Di Stefano for the inaugural title in 1956.
Sergio Aguero (ARG/Manchester City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (GAB/Borussia Dortmund), Gareth Bale (WAL/Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (ITA/Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (BEL/Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (ARG/Juventus), Diego Godin (URU/Atletico Madrid), Antoine Griezmann (FRA/Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (ARG/Juventus), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE/Manchester United), Andres Iniesta (ESP/Barcelona), Koke (ESP/Atletico Madrid), Toni Kroos (GER/Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich), Hugo Lloris (FRA/Tottenham Hotspur), Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Leicester City), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona), Luka Modric (CRO/Real Madrid), Thomas Mueller (GER/Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (GER/Bayern Munich), Neymar (BRA/Barcelona), Dimitri Payet (FRA/West Ham United), Paul Pogba (FRA/Manchester United), Pepe (POR/Real Madrid), Rui Patricio (POR/Sporting Lisbon), Sergio Ramos (ESP/Real Madrid), Luis Suarez (URU/Barcelona), Jamie Vardy (ENG/Leicester City), Arturo Vidal (CHI/Bayern Munich)