The 30-man shortlist for the 2017 Ballon d’Or has been announced and the ceremony to announce the winners of this prestigious award will take place in London later this month. In Part 1 of the shortlist analysis we take a look at 15 of the nominees and what they did to justify their inclusion.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund + Gabon)
Not even dodgy orange juice could derail the Dortmund striker’s incredible goal-scoring season. The Gabonese international banged in 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga games last season, finishing as the league’s top scorer, and has already bagged eight in seven games to start off this campaign. Sadly his goal-scoring form couldn’t help Gabon qualify for the World Cup, but at club level Aubameyang is a monster.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid + France)
The French striker often flies somewhat under the radar at Real Madrid given the abundance of talent on show at the Bernabeu. However Benzema was an instrumental part of a Real Madrid side that won La Liga and the Champions League last season, and managed 11 goals and five assists in the title-winning league campaign.
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus + AC Milan + Italy)
The 2016 Serie A Footballer of the Year made the switch to AC Milan in the summer after narrowly missing out on a Champions League win with Juventus. Bonucci spent seven successful seasons in Turin, winning six Scudettos, and was a stalwart in the heart of one of the most impressive defences in football history, both in club football and on the international stage. Last season he won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and was a runner-up in the Champions League.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus + Italy)
The legendary goalkeeper is heading into his 17th season as Juventus’ starting goalkeeper, and last season he secured a record-breaking sixth consecutive Scudetto. Buffon also played in the third Champions League final of his career but once again came away empty handed as his side lost out to Real Madrid. That defeat will likely prevent him from picking up this award, but there is no denying that Buffon is one of the all time great goalkeepers.
Edinson Cavani (PSG + Uruguay)
The Uruguayan striker is another player who is often overshadowed by other star players who come and go at PSG, and nothing has changed this season with the addition of Neymar. Despite this Cavani bagged 49 goals in 50 games in all competitions for the French giants, contributing to a domestic cup double. 35 of these goals came in the league and the striker was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year. This season Cavani has started strong with eight in eight league games.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool + Brazil)
Coutinho became the all-time lead scoring Brazilian in Premier League history last season as he registered 13 goals and seven assists in a league season that saw Liverpool qualify for the Champions League. The midfield maestro has also helped his native Brazil qualify for the 2018 World Cup, comfortably winning the South American qualification group.
Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City + Belgium)
The Belgium international has become one of the world’s best midfielders at Manchester City and last season he provided 18 assists and six goals as City finished in third spot in the Premier League. Under manager Pep Guardiola the midfielder has developed into a complete midfielder, capable of dominating games with his impressive range of passing and intelligent movement. De Bruyne has also showed that he is capable of scoring crucial goals and recently scored the winner in City’s Premier League game against Chelsea.
David de Gea (Manchester United + Spain)
The Spanish goalkeeper has become one of the most sought after shot stoppers in world football, and last season he was part of a Manchester United team that won the Europa League. The talented keeper also kept 14 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, despite United’s relatively poor campaign. His efforts earned him a place in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year for the fourth time.
Paulo Dybala (Juventus + Argentina)
The Argentinian is one of the most exciting players in the world right now. The ‘next Messi’ has had a blistering start to this Serie A season, scoring 10 goals in Juventus’ seven league games. Last campaign Dybala contributed 11 goals and seven assists towards his side’s Serie A title win, and scored four times as Juventus narrowly missed out on a Champions League win. Aside from the statistics the level of performance that Dybala is capable of is what makes him such a mesmerising player. The comparisons to Messi are completely justified as Dybala’s favoured position is the free role behind the striker, and he has started to really excel in this role.
Edin Dzeko (Roma + Bosnia-Herzegovina)
After a disappointing first season in the Italian capital, the former Manchester City striker had an incredible 2016/17 season. The Bosnian international scored a league-high 29 goals in the Serie A as Roma finished second, four points off winners Juventus. Dzeko finished the season with 39 goals in all competitions, breaking Rodolfo Volk and Francesco Totti’s previous single-season records. His form has also continued into this season as the striker has seven goals in six Serie A games this campaign.
Radamel Falcao (Monaco + Colombia)
2016/17 was a sensational season for Monaco, and Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was right at the heart of the club’s success. Falcao scored 21 goals in Ligue 1 as Monaco topped the table, beating French super club PSG by eight points. The striker also bagged five goals in his side’s impressive Champions League run that eventually ended in a semi-final exit. This season Falcao has already fired in 12 goals in eight league games, despite the departures of a number of high-profile players in the summer.
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid + France)
Griezmann recorded a third place finish in the 2016 Ballon d’Or voting, and he will be hoping to better than this time around. However it has been a season of near misses for the French striker. Atletico Madrid could only manage a third place finish in La Liga, despite Griezmann’s 16 goals and eight assists, and the Madrid club lost out to their city rivals in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Had Atleti managed to turn these near misses into heroic victories then Griezmann could certainly be the favourite for this award, but unfortunately it looks like he will miss out once again.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea + Belgium)
Antonio Conte revolutionised a Chelsea side who had completely collapsed in the previous season under Mourinho, and Eden Hazard was instrumental in the Blues’ title-winning season. The dazzling Belgian winger scored 16 times and added five assists as the London club breezed to the Premier League title, beating rivals Tottenham by seven points. Hazard elevated his game to another level, tearing defences apart from the left wing. His tremendous form prompted Jose Mourinho to instruct Ander Herrera to man-mark him during Chelsea’s clash with Manchester United.
Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich + Germany)
Hummels has been a consistent performer at the highest level for both Dortmund and Germany for some time, and in the defender’s first season at Bayern Munich he became a crucial part of a side that dominated the Bundesliga once again. The Bavarian club beat nearest rivals RB Leipzig by 15 points and Hummels featured 27 times in their title-winning season. Bayern had a relatively disappointing Champions League campaign, losing out in the quarterfinals to eventual winners Real Madrid, but it was nevertheless a hugely successful first season at the club for Matt Hummels.
Isco (Real Madrid + Spain)
A hugely talented midfielder, Isco is often a slightly underrated part of a star-studded Real Madrid team, and previous managers have struggled to find a definitive role for the Spaniard. However last season Isco was a crucial player for Los Blancos, contributing 10 goals and nine assists in Madrid’s title-winning league season. He also scored against city rivals Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League, and Real went on to win the tournament, becoming the first team to retain the trophy in its current format.
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