You are about to disagree with me.
And that’s fine.
FIFA have announced the ten nominees for their annual ‘The Best Men’s Player’ award and I have opened myself up to a torrent of personal abuse by ranking them.
First of all, let’s take a look at the official criteria for the award.
According to FIFA, the award is determined by a player’s “on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch” from the 3 July 2017 to 15 July 2018.
In non-calendar speak, that’s the whole of last season and the World Cup.
Let’s do this…
10 Eden Hazard
Belgium’s best player at the World Cup and one of the standouts of the tournament as a whole.
Blew hot and cold for Chelsea in the league if truth be told — his quieter months coincided with the Blues’ leaner spells which ultimately cost them Champions League football.
9 Kylian Mbappe
Benefitted hugely from a sensational World Cup, in which he was truly breathtaking at times.
When judging the award we are not supposed to take age into account and so we must measure his performances equally against the other candidates and not give him extra credit for performing way above the average teenager.
Being ultra critical, I would liked him to have scored more than 13 league goals in Ligue 1.
Although I accept that being the junior member of a front three that also includes Neymar and Edinson Cavani means selflessness in the final third is encouraged.
8 Harry Kane
No trophies? No problem.
The award is designed to recognise individual brilliance and Kane has established himself as the world’s most insatiable centre-forward in the last year.
41 goals in 48 games for Spurs, plus 11 for England in the judging period, represents an undeniably impressive return by any measure.
7 Antoine Griezmann
It’s important to take the whole judging period into account, not just the last month.
Yes, Greizmann was instrumental in France’s World Cup win and Atletico Madrid’s Europa League triumph.
But he was notably under par for the first half of the season and was ultimately outscored by five players in La Liga.
Weighing up two contrasting halves of a season is difficult, hence the indecisive mid-table ranking.
6 Raphael Varane
Comparing defenders against forwards is a thankless task.
How am I meant to know how Varane’s imperious performances at the back for Real Madrid and France compared to the efforts of the goalscorers?
The 25-year-old was serenely flawless in key knockout games on the biggest stages for club and country.
Soon to be the standalone best centre-back in the world.
5 Luka Modric
Watching Modric play football is one of life’s great pleasures.
His understated brilliance was key to Real’s latest Champions League triumph and he was the best creative midfielder on display at the World Cup by a distance.
He saved his best form for the right times but we must also consider his week-in-week-out league efforts, which were perhaps slightly reduced and reflective of Real’s season.
That minute criticism sees him miss out on a podium position.
4 Mohamed Salah
Placing Salah outside the top three has probably made me extremely unpopular in Egypt.
The Liverpool No11 was an unstoppable phenomenon for much of the judging period.
Measure him against the criteria (on-field performance and overall behaviour) and he excels in every department.
Again, this is an individual award and a lack of team trophies should not work against him as his personal campaign was of the highest calibre.
3 Kevin De Bruyne
Here’s my justification — most agree there wasn’t much between De Bruyne and Salah for Player of the Year in the England.
The rampant Egyptian came out on top (no issue there) but once you consider the Belgian’s considerably better World Cup, the scales should shift, right?
De Bruyne was the best player for the first professional team to gain 100 points in a season on English soil — that should count for a lot.
At his best, his passing induced the kind of gasps and spontaneous claps that are usually reserved for wondergoals.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo
Take a deep breath, everything is going to be fine.
Let’s try remove emotions and look at this objectively.
Ronaldo was under par (by his extraordinary standards) for the first half of the judging period.
However, he was the best player in the world for the second half.
At one point he had the worst conversion rate for any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
And yet he finished the season with 44 goals from 44 club games.
He retained his stranglehold on the Champions League to lift the trophy as the competition’s top scorer once again.
And his showstopping performance against Spain at the World Cup was an exhibition for the ages.
Ronaldo operates on a level above all others… all others, except one.
1 Lionel Messi
Think back to Mohamed Salah’s season — incredible effort, right?
Now imagine that he had inspired Liverpool to win the league and the FA Cup.
Now imagine he had finished as top assist-provider as well as top scorer.
Now imagine he won the European Golden Shoe.
That’s what Messi effectively did last season — and yet it barely registered.
The brilliance of Barcelona’s No10 has become so normalised that his 9/10 form week-in-week-out is taken for granted.
It shouldn’t be.
Barca were one goal away from an undefeated season, and the only reason they lost to Levante is because they decided to rest Messi so that he could play in a friendly in South Africa.
Many will point to the World Cup as evidence to support the case that he shouldn’t win the award, an argument I fully understand.
However, Argentina’s failure was as a team and not down to an underperforming superstar.
The judging period includes the back end of qualifying, in which Messi single-handedly dragged Jorge Sampaoli’s shambles of a team to Russia by virtue of a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador.
If you take the award literally, and judge it solely on individual performance in every game from 3 July 2017 to 15 July 2018, then it’s impossible look beyond Messi.
But hey, that’s just me.