World football governing body, FIFA, rolled out the names of nominees for its best men’s player of the year award yesterday, a list compiled by its panel of legends which included Nigeria’s Emmanuel Amunike.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi again feature, but it was bad news for Brazil with the absence of Neymar Jr. from the list. Mohamed Salah secured a spot on the back of a stellar season in the EPL, while Kevin De Bruyne’s evxellent performances in both league and World Cup put him on the list.
Eden Hazard showed flashes of brilliance for Chelsea but had a stellar World Cup for Belgium, winning the Silver Ball, Harry Kane had another good season with Tottenham with over 30 goals and his six goals in the World Cup earned him the Golden boot, while Antoine Griezmann also proved the ultimate assist maker and a cold-blooded penalty taker as France won the World Cup for a second time.
Luka Modric won the UCL with Real Madrid and led Croatia to the World Cup final where they lost 4-2 to France, Raphael Varane also won the UCL but went one better than Modric by winning the World Cup. There was space for teenage prodigy, Kylian Mbappe, to complete the list. A player compared to Pele, he equalled the Brazilian legend’s record of scoring in the World Cup final as a youngster, and he won the Best Young Player award for his heroics with France.
The Best FIFA Men’s award will be announced in late September, but before then, we run the rule over what the three most likely winners, Ronaldo, Messi and Salah, managed to achieve between 3 July 2017 and 15 July 2018, which is the period under review for the award.
The Portuguese captain and Real Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer had another stellar 12 months. The 33-year old won the Spanish Supercopa, World Club Cup and also the Champions League for the fifth time- fourth with Real Madrid- and his goals propelled Los Galacricos into the final where they overcame Liverpool 3-1. The Champions League is Ronaldo’s favourite competition and he created history by becoming the first player to score in all six group matches. He did not stop there, taking his scoring spree into the knockout rounds where it culminated in a brace against Juventus- his new club- in a 3-0 win at Turin, the second being an acrobatic goal which has been analyzed by almost everybody in the world, even mathematician calculated geometric angles, while Juventus’ fans simply gave him a standing ovation. His fifteen goals made him the highest goalscorer for the sixth comsecutive season- only sharing 2014/15 with Messi and Neymar (10 goals each)- and his 119 UCL goals means he has more goals than 465 other clubs that have played in the competition. Although, advancing in age- 33- he continued to lead Portugal, his goals helping them qualify for the World Cup in Russia where he scored one of the best goals of the tournament- a curling free kick from 30 yards. The Madeira-born forward has won each of the Best Men’s player award since its inception two years ago and would seem favourite to make it a hat trick.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi was all about domestic dominance in this period, winning both La Liga and Copa del Rey titles as Barcelona earned a double. He started the year with a goal in the Supercopa loss to Real Madrid and ended it with 45 goals, 36 coming in the league. He broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals scored for a single club (365 goals) in any of Europe’s top leagues in January with a wonderful free kick in the 4-2 win over Real Sociedad. La Pulga’s excellent domestic season culminated in Barcelona going 36 games unbeaten before losing to Levante in a crazy 5-4 encounter. He won the Adidas Golden Shoe award for a record fifth time and also attained 100 goals in the Champions League, the second player after Cristiano Ronaldo to achieve the mark, but the little Argentine did it in less games than his Portuguese rival.
However, as is the case with the national team, captain Messi could not inspire his national team at the World Cup where they were dumped out by France in the first knock-out round after only squeezing through the group stage.
The prince of Egyptian football could not have dreamt of such a wonderful season on his return to England following his £$36 million move from Roma in the summer of 2017. His pace and dribbling skills helped him to a trailer-load of goals, becoming the top marksman in the EPL with 32 goals, and ended the season with 46 goals for club and country, helping Liverpool to a surprise Champions League final, and also scored the last-minute winning penalty that helped Egypt qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
Salah, 26, became the first ever player to win three consecutive EPL player of the month award in a season, ending the season with several accolades including the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award and the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year awards. The icing on his season in England was being named in the 2017–18 PFA Team of the Year.
The first Egyptian to ever play for Liverpool, Salah scored 10 goals in the Champions League, and his 43 goals for the club made him the best performer in a debut season. The Egyptian’s shoulder injury during the Champions League final affected his performance in Russia, but still managed to score twice in the Competition as Egypt were eliminated at the group stage. With a style similar to Messi’s, it is believed that Salah is just starting, and winning this award could really give the signal.