Fleetwood Town striker David Ball hopes to get the better of one of his footballing idols when the nominees for FIFA’s Puskas Award are whittled down next week.
Ball’s wonder-strike – a sumptuous swivel and lob into the top corner against Preston North End in League One last season – saw him named as the only English player in a 10-goal selection earlier this month, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.
Next Monday, the results of a public vote on FIFA’s official website will decide which three goals go forward to January’s Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich.
Argentina striker Tevez makes the long list thanks to a solo goal against Parma during his final campaign with Juventus.
A product of Manchester City’s youth academy, the 25-year-old Ball spent some of his formative years in the game training along Tevez, who he cites as a huge inspiration.
“I managed to get on the bench a couple of times under Mark Hughes at City so I trained a lot with Carlos,” he told Omnisport.
“We didn’t speak much, I was a young lad, but I saw enough of him and he’s a player that I’ve always enjoyed watching because of the way he plays. I like to try and replicate the way he plays a little bit.
“It was unbelievable training with players like Carlos. I’m in awe of these players, I look up to them.”
Ball’s magic moment came with Fleetwood 1-0 down, five minutes from the end of a fiercely contested Lancashire derby.
Receiving a pass from Ash Hunter with his back to goal, the forward turned to engineer space with some dazzling footwork before sending a picturesque strike beyond Preston’s on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
“In training I’ve tried stuff before of a similar ilk but it’s not something you practice,” Ball explained. “It’s kind of off-the-cuff, just there and then in the moment.
“I’m just really honoured by the nomination. Being the only Englishman as well – it’s great to represent England in some way.”
Should he make the final three, Ball will make a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to the glitzy gala, where he will be proud to represent Fleetwood – a club that gained promotion to the Football League for the first time in 2012.
Of his rivals for the award, he believes a familiar name stands out for his Barcelona heroics in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
“I obviously like Messi’s goal,” Ball added. “You’ve got to be pure quality to go past that many players in the game he was playing in. To go past those type of players with ease stands out.”