FIVE-TIME Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, embattled over raging rape claims, headlines a list of candidates for that prestigeous honour, this year, curiously minus the Portugues’s great rival, Lionel Messi, himself a five-time winner of that award.
FIFA are releasing the full 30-man shortlist throughout Monday with five stars revealed at one time and Welshman Bale was among the first batch. Sergio Aguero, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavni completed the first five.
Names are released in alphabetical order but Cristiano Ronaldo formed part of the second wave and he was the stand-out name in a group that also contained Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne.
Gareth Bale is among the first five players to be announced for the latest Ballon d’Or award
Liverpool’s stellar campaign last season saw further recognition as Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino earned a spot in the second release with Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin completing the first 10 names.
The award has been dominated by Messi and Ronaldo since 2008, each scoring five awards, but with Luka Modric’s impressive season seeing him sweep the recent prizes, he is threatening to break up the duopoly.
The Ballon d’Or is considered the greatest personal accolade a player can achieve and this year’s awards ceremony will take place in Paris on December 3.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is one of the Premier League names to make the list
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema makes the 30-man shortlist to join team-mate Bale
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker and PSG striker Edinson Cavani completed the first five
Kylian Mbappe, who hit four goals in 13 minutes on Sunday in the rout over Lyon, remains in the hunt for the award after ending his season with a World Cup winners’ medal with France.
Bale is now the main man at Real following Ronaldo’s summer switch to Juventus and he will hope he has done enough for his first Ballon d’Or, even if the competition from the Portuguese remains stronger than ever.
The Welshman is enduring a tough start to the campaign under new boss Julen Lopetegui but made the difference in Kiev when it mattered most against Liverpool to secure a third straight Champions League title in May.
Thibaut Courtois has been handed a boost by making the list after a tough start to the season
Kevin De Bruyne and Roberto Firmino were among the Premier League’s best players last term
From a Premier League perspective no player has made the top three in a decade with Fernando Torres, then of Liverpool, finishing third and Ronaldo, then of Manchester United, winning the award.
But with four big names from the division matching La Liga in the opening 10 selections, there will be a faint hope that the decade of omissions will come to an end.
BALLON D’OR SHORTLIST:
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
EDITED FROM: dailymail.co.uk