We know it wasn’t that long ago but let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember the 2022 Ballon d’Or awards.
Kylian Mbappe became the first non-Messi/Ronaldo player to pick up the award since Kaka in 2007.
But that doesn’t even tell half the story. For a start, three out of the final five nominees were English.
Kylian Mbappe (PSG/France)
Neymar’s shock retirement at the age of 30 forced Mbappe to step up to the plate.
Step up he did, with eight goals against Troyes a particular highlight in a season that included a Champions League and Ligue 1 double.
The addition of Paul Pogba definitely helped his game, making Jose Mourinho’s decision to swap him for Thiago Motta even more baffling.
Of course it later came out that Mourinho sanctioned the move in his final ‘f*** you’ to Ed Woodward for giving Luke Shaw an four-year contract extension.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)
Messi’s move back to a holding midfielder at the age of 34 allowed Brendan Rodgers to get the best out of him during the latter stages of his career.
His partnership with Marcus McGuane was the foundation on which Rodgers built his Barcelona side during the 2021/22 season.
He might have fallen short in his quest to win yet another Ballon d’Or but he went on to make up for it by guiding Argentina to a 2022 World Cup win.
The sight of him lifting the trophy alongside joint-managers Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian Veron will live long in Argentinian memories.
Harry Kane (Real Madrid/England)
The world’s first £300million player didn’t buckle under the pressure of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu.
There was, of course, that slightly awkward moment when Kane, alongside manager Mauricio Pochettino, was forced to burn a Jonathan Woodgate shirt on the pitch to get rid of any bad juju.
On a personal level Kane’s season was a success, although Barcelona beat Madrid to La Liga.
Forty goals in a debut season is nothing to be disappointed about, even if Barcelona fans insist on calling him ‘Parry Pane’ because half of his strikes came from the penalty spot.
Phil Foden (Man City/England)
Foden’s seamless transition from a promising attacking midfielder to one of the world’s best left-backs was another feather in Pep Guardiola’s Stone Island cap.
Winning the Premier League with Citeh helped Foden forget all about England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2020 under Phil Neville.
Twenty-three assists from left-back was a remarkable effort for a player who was once subbed off for Ederson during a League Cup game.
You can bet your last Bitcoin that he’ll captain England at some point in the future.
Nick Pope (Spurs/England)
When Gianluigi Buffon is hyping you up as the best goalkeeper in world football you know you’ve had a good season.
Pope kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in Europe as he helped Spurs put the pressure on City.
In the end he was let down by his outfield team-mates, but he still played a starring role in Spurs’ run to the Champions League final, including a memorable last-minute header against Wolves in the semi-final.
No wonder they’re calling him the best Pope since Francis.
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