Five Ballon d’Or Nominees who could challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Five Ballon d’Or Nominees who could challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Oct 26, 2016

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Lionel Messi celebrating a hat-trick for Barcelona against Manchester City in the Champions League group stages 2016

Lionel Messi celebrating a hat-trick for Barcelona against Manchester City in the Champions League group stages 2016

 

In recent years, the prestigious French award of the world’s best player has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi has claimed five of the awards (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015) whilst Cristiano is currently on three (2008, 2013, 2014). The likelihood is that this year’s trophy will be awarded to one of these men once again, but could we see a surprise winner?

Here are five dark horses from the 30-man shortlist who could win the Ballon d’Or 2016:

Diego Godin

Diego Godin celebrating for Atletico Madrid

Diego Godin celebrating for Atletico Madrid

Arguably the most underrated defender in the world, Godin has been consistently world-class for his La Liga team for several years, being the core asset in an Atletico Madrid defence that has one of the most impressive records in Europe. Godin delivers on both ends of the pitch, scoring in vital games and being the match-winner several times. He is a leader on the field and has immense concentration. The ball-playing centre back can dribble past a man and join in counter-attacks, whilst also tracking back and winning the majority of his aerial duels. Defenders are generally ignored in the Ballon d’Or selection process, and Diego Godin has gone under the radar long enough –  it is time he collects some recognition.

Honours:

La Liga Title 2012-13, Copa del Rey 2012-13, UEFA Europa League 2011-12, UEFA Champions League Runner-up 2013-14, 2015-16, UEFA Team of the Year 2014, Copa America: 2011,

Key Statistics (based on the current season and international tournaments this year):

1.5 tackles per game

2.6 interceptions per game

4.6 clearances per game

0.4 dribbles per game

0.3 blocks per game

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez scoring for Barcelona in the 2015-16 La Liga season

Luis Suarez scoring for Barcelona in the 2015-16 La Liga season

A member of the greatest attacking trio to ever grace a football pitch, Luis Suarez has taken La Liga by storm in his first two seasons. His career has progressed immensely in the last few years, which has led to him becoming one of the most complete strikers in Europe. Suarez was bought by Barcelona for £65m in 2014, scoring 84 goals in his first two seasons in Catalonia. He achieved La Liga top scorer last season, netting 40 times – 5 more than Cristiano Ronaldo and 14 more than Lionel Messi. His scoring record suggests he is capable of obtaining a Ballon d’Or, but there is more to his game than goals. His intelligence on the field and communication with other players is outstanding, and this is proven by his ability to create partnerships with other players – Sturridge and Sterling at Liverpool; Messi and Neymar at Barcelona. Luis is a serious player and contender for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Honours:

La Liga 2014-15, 2015-16, Copa Del Rey 2014-15, 2015-16, UEFA Champions League 2014-15, Copa America 2011, Premier League Player of the Season 2013-14, La Liga World Player of the Year 2015-16, Premier League Golden Boot 2013-14

Key Statistics (based on the current season and international tournaments this year):

14 goals in 14 games

5 assists

0.9 dribbles per game

1.4 key passes per game

2.9 shots per game

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann for Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann for Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid seem to always have a world class striker in their squad; Forlan, Torres, Aguero, Costa, Mandzukic – and now Antoine Griezmann. The French international has hit the ground running since joining European giants Atletico Madrid in 2014 as a replacement for Diego Costa, scoring 50 goals in 81 appearances. This is even more impressive as he played as a left-winger for the majority of these games, but has since adapted to the centre forward role too. This summer Griezmann was the top scorer and player of the tournament (ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo) at Euro 2016, Antoine Griezmann scored 6 goals at the finals – only fellow countryman Michel Platini has ever scored more in one of the tournaments. Griezmann has put up a real fight to win this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Honours:

UEFA Champions League Runner-up 2015-16, UEFA European Championship Runner-up 2016, La Liga Best Player 2016, La Liga Team of the Season 2014-15, French Player of the Year 2014-15, UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season 2015-16, UEFA European Championship Golden Boot 2016, UEFA European Championship Player of the Tournament 2016, UEFA Best Player in Europe Award Runner-up 2016

Key Statistics (based on the current season and international tournaments this year):

13 goals in 22 games

5 assists

3.2 shots per game

2.1 key passes per game

1.1 dribbles per game

Dimitri Payet

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Dimitri Payet scoring for France in the European Championship 2016 group stages

Perhaps the most unlikely of the five contenders, you may read this and think “Payet? Next joke.” However, just because he does not play for a European giant and hasn’t been around for long does not mean he is not good enough – in fact West Ham’s reliability on him demonstrates his class, and he carried France through the Euro 2016 group stages almost single-handedly. During the group stages, Payet was statistically the best player in Europe. Payet scored three goals for France at the Euros from the left-wing, and topped UEFA’s player barometer as the best player at the tournament ahead of Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo. He outperformed players such as £89million Paul Pogba and £58 million Anthony Martial, proving he can compete with some of the most expensive players in the world. Although it is clear that Dimitri Payet has very little chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, you can see how he can compete with the other players on this list, having helped himself to 15 goals and 20 assists in 2016 (all as a midfielder).

Honours:

UEFA European Championship 2016 Runner-up, Premier League PFA Team of the Year 2015-16, Nominee for PFA Player of the Year 2015-16, West Ham Player of the Year 2015-16, Marseille Player of the Year 2014-15, London Player of the Year 2015-16, Ligue 1 Team of the Year 2012-13, 2014-15, Ligue 1 Assist Leader 2012-13, 2014-15

Key Statistics (based on the current season and international tournaments this year):

7 goals in 20 appearances

6 assists

4 Man of the Match awards

3.1 shots per game

3.9 key passes per game

3 dribbles per game

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale hitting a volley for Real Madrid in 2016

Gareth Bale hitting a volley for Real Madrid in 2016

One of the greatest athletes currently playing the game, Gareth Bale surpassed Premier League standards and moved to the Madrid capital in 2013 for a world-record fee of £85.3 million (£5.3m more than Cristiano Ronaldo). Bale has scored 50 goals in 89 appearances from the wing (and sometimes central). Obviously, Bale is going to be compared to Ronaldo, due to playing for the same club, costing a similar fee, and playing similar positions – and rightly so. The Welshman has a superior shot conversion rate at 23.6 per cent, compared to Ronaldo’s 15.4 per cent. At the European Championships 2016, Bale netted three times from 21 shots at 18.5 per cent, while Ronaldo converted just two of his 36 for a measly 5.6 per cent. Bale’s assist rate averages one per 265 minutes, while his Portuguese equivalent goes at one every 333 minutes. Bale also beats Ronaldo statistically on dribbling and defensive qualities, as well as conversion rates and assists. Can Bale prove he is better than Cristiano by beating him to the Ballon d’Or 2016?

Honours:

UEFA Champions League 2013-14, 2015-16, Wales Player of the Year Award 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, Premier League PFA Team of the Year 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, , PFA Player of the year 2010-11, 2012-13, UEFA Team of the Year 2011, 2013, UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season 2015-16, Copa del Rey 2013-14

Key Statistics (based on this current season and international tournaments this year):

7 goals in 18 appearances

3.8 shots per game

1.2 key passes per game

2.4 dribbles per game

 

Our Final Ballon d’Or order:

  1. Lionel Messi (ARG)
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)
  3. Luis Suarez (URU)
  4. Antoine Griezmann (FRA)
  5. Dimitri Payet (FRA)
  6. Diego Godin (URU)
  7. Gareth Bale (WAL)

 

[Statistics and data from Whoscored.com and Squawka.com]

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