Messi faces Ronaldo, Van Dijk for Ballon d’Or

Paris: When the long list of 30 candidates was announced Monday in the city where Neymar has played for more than two years at Paris Saint-Germain – the Brazil star’s name was missing from the nominations by a global voting panel of journalists.

Messi and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the individual award organized by France Football magazine was broken by Luka Modric last December. Modric is also absent one year after he swept the Ballon d’Or and FIFA best player awards after a stellar 2018 with Real Madrid and Croatia.

World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is favored to add a Ballon d’Or to her FIFA award won last month. The United States star is joined on a 20-woman list by teammates Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan.

Defending her title is Ada Hegerberg, winner of the inaugural women’s award, from Europe’s dominant club team Lyon which has six nominees. Neymar has twice placed third in Ballon d’Or voting, both times finishing behind Messi and Ronaldo. Moving out of Messi’s shadow in Barcelona, where they won a Champions League title
together in 2015, has not delivered the personal acclaim Neymar sought. Messi won his sixth FIFA award last month, edging Van Dijk who starred in Liverpool’s Champions League-winning
Van Dijk would be the first defender topping the poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. The Liverpool center back was among seven teammates nominated, including Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino. They also won the Copa America with a Brazil team that managed without an injured Neymar. Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum also figured in the five nominees from a resurgent Netherlands team.

No Dutch player has won since Marco van Basten in 1992. Liverpool forwards Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are among a six-strong African challenge, including Mane’s Senegal teammate, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
The only Asian player on the list is South Korea forward Son Heung-min of Champions League finalist Tottenham. The awards ceremony is 2 December in Paris.