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Re-ranking the 30 nominees for the 2018 Ballon d’Or in a way which will make you angry

Football is a game of opinions but sorry, there have not been four players better than Lionel Messi this year

First of all, congratulations to Luka Modric.

The cultured Croatian midfielder was worthy of the World Cup Golden Ball and has been a joy to watch for much of 2018.

However, strip back the romanticism and ask yourself if he was truly the best player in the world over the course of the judging period — for me, the answer is no.

An undeniable class act, but the best?

AFP or licensors
An undeniable class act, but the best?

I have risked the wrath of some of the internet’s quickest fingers by re-ranking the 30 nominees…

  • 30th Hugo Lloris (down 1 place)
  • 29th Karim Benzema (down 12 places) – useful partner for Cristiano Ronaldo in first half of the year but has failed to step up, poor goal return
  • 28th Paul Pogba (down 13 places) – great World Cup but too often out-of-form for his club
  • 27th Thibaut Courtois (down 13 places) – same as Pogba
  • 26th Alisson (down 1 place)
  • 25th Sergio Ramos (down 6 places)
  • 24th Mario Mandzukic (up 1 place)
  • 23rd Diego Godin (up 5 places) – unerringly consistent for club and country
  • 22nd Gareth Bale (down 5 places) – unplayable at his best but has blown hot and cold
  • 21st Ivan Rakitic (down 2 places)
  • 20th Sadio Mane (up 2 places)
  • 19th Marcelo (up 3 places)
  • 18th Isco (up 11 places) – incredible form in the second half of last season, excellent in World Cup until Spain’s exit
  • 17th Jan Oblak (up 7 places)
  • 16th Roberto Firmino (up 3 places)
  • 15th Edinson Cavani (up 7 places)
  • 14th Luis Suarez (down 1 place)
  • 13th Neymar (down 1 place) – missed much of judging period with injury
  • 12th Sergio Aguero (up 4 places)
  • 11th Harry Kane (down 1 place) – hampered by injury and fatigue but undeniable goal return
  • 10th Eden Hazard (down 2 places) – top five on his day but too many quiet games in second half of last season, unplayable from World Cup onward
  • 9th Raphael Varane (down 2 places)
  • 8th Antoine Griezmann (down 5 places) – key for France and Atletico Madrid but wants too much credit for team achievements
  • 7th N’Golo Kante (up 4 places) – best in the world at what he does
  • 6th Kevin De Bruyne (up 3 places) – hindered by injury but best in his position when fit over the last year
  • 5th Kylian Mbappe (down 1 place)
  • 4th Luka Modric (down 3 places) – World Cup’s best player and excellent in Champions League knockouts, left a smidgen of something to be desired week-in, week-out domestically
  • 3rd Mohamed Salah (up 3 places)
  • 2nd Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo (up 3 places/same)
  • 1st Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo (up 4 places/up 1 place)

Familiar faces

Familiar faces

Too often in discussions of the Ballon d’Or do people instinctively mention team achievements.

It’s easy to rank Antoine Griezmann highly because he won the World Cup and the Europa League but it is more accurate to consider his individual attributes, performances and merits.

The Ballon d’Or should go to the best player in the world, not the best player for the team who achieved the most.

There is a subtle but key difference.

Fortnite celebration incoming

Getty - Contributor
Fortnite celebration incoming

Many are quick to discredit Mohamed Salah’s year because his efforts failed to produce a trophy — but that’s not right.

From an individual perspective, Salah could hardly have reached a higher level.

Yes, some games are more important than others.

But let’s remember the World Cup winners only need to play well for seven games — and France underwhelmed in the group stages by anybody’s measure.

I am uncomfortable with the idea of players being considered among the very best in the world over a whole year based on a purple patch from mid-June to mid-July.

World Cup performance should certainly be a factor, but I feel the weighting is unfair.

A phenomenal year

PA:Press Association
A phenomenal year

You mean to tell me there have been four players better than Lionel Messi in the last year?

The Argentine No10’s brilliance has become normalised.

Winning the European Golden Shoe, scoring 50-odd goals, and inspiring Barcelona to a domestic double is considered par for the course these days.

Messi’s talent is taken for granted and he has been unfairly blamed for Argentina’s tactical shambles of a World Cup.

When you see the likes of Hugo Lloris among the nominees, you can’t help but wonder how many people actually bother to watch the games.

On paper, the captain of the World Cup winning team sounds worthy, but any Spurs season-ticket holder will tell their skipper’s form has been on a downward trajectory for a while.

Watch the games (more than two or three of them) and it is obvious, Messi remains unmatched bar one.

A victim of his own success

A victim of his own success

The Messi v Ronaldo debate pollutes enough discussions already so I deliberately failed to separate the two five-time Ballon d’Or winners in my re-ranking.

Some may think ten years is a long enough duopoly; I admit to feeling some enjoyment at seeing a new face accept the award.

But Messi and Ronaldo proved they were still the two best players in the world this year.

Boring it may be to some, but they’re just that good.