Close Look at First Five Ballon d’Or Nominees

Close Look at First Five Ballon d’Or Nominees

As the greatest individual achievement for a soccer player, the Ballon d’Or will once again be awarded on December 3rd of this year. With the 2018 World Cup in the equation, this year’s winner will be selected out of a pool larger than the Ronaldo-Messi dominating duo, since an exit in the Round of 16 in the World Cup qualifies you to a round of applause and nothing more.

Today, five nominees were announced by FIFA, with a goal-keeper amidst the names. Sergio Agüero, Gareth Bale, Alisson Becker, Karim Benzema, and Edinson Cavani will be the contenders worthy of a vote for the prestigious award. It takes little effort, however, to find out which player will come nearest to the top three.

Sergio Agüero

While Agüero’s figure carries undisputed respect in the world of soccer, his greatest club and nation achievements never truly made him worthy of ‘best in the world’ consideration. You could smell the Ballon d’Or potential since his Atlético Madrid days, but unfortunately he was never able achieve it.

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Agüero after scoring for Manchester City in October of 2018

In recent years, his output at Manchester City has receded, with that 2012 EPL title goal resting in the history books as an iconic moment of modern football. This year, his efforts were part of a dominating mechanism composed of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and co. which was able to mathematically secure the EPL title with spring having yet to come. In contrast, the UEFA Champions League ended early for the Sky Blues, when Liverpool was there in the quarterfinals to serve bad news to them, and Agüero.

In the World Cup, Argentina’s campaign was not only focused around Lionel Messi, but it was also a downright failure. After barely making it out of the group stage, the team exited in the Round of 16 after Kylian Mbappé decided to make a statement in the sport with two goals, leaving no room for Argentina to sigh with relief. Agüero did score a late goal in the match, but France had already tallied a towering count of four goals, as opposed to the three Argentinian successful efforts.

It would be difficult to assign Agüero at a higher place than just a nominee’s seed, but his talent is definitely worthy of a mention in this year’s list.

Gareth Bale

Bale’s 2018 UEFA Champions League Final bicycle shot

Unfortunately for the Welshman, his 2017-2018 season was riddled with injuries which forced Zinedine Zidane to bring him in late in games, rather than starting. Bale did score 21 goals in 39 appearances, two of those goals being the spectacularly decisive winners of the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final. However, since Wales failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and Real Madrid’s UEFA campaign was successful due to players other than Bale, Ballon d’Or talk cannot take him further than the just-announced nomination.

Alisson Becker

Becker’s £66.8 million transfer to Liverpool during the summer came to no surprise, as the Brazilian keeper proved himself to be a one of the most important assets to both teams he was part of.

At Roma, he was visibly crucial part of a defense that took the Italians further than anyone could’ve imagined, leaving the UEFA Champions League in a dramatic semifinal matchup against Liverpool. For Brazil, his efforts matched those shown at Roma, but center-back issues halted the run of the South Americans in the quarterfinal matchup against Belgium.

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Alisson at the 2018 World Cup

With a 0.7 goal-conceding average and 30 saves in 59 matches, Alisson deserves a placement in the top five of the Ballon d’Or race. After all, it is always nice when a keeper reaches out for the prestigious award.

Karim Benzema

Silent but deadly, Benzema’s presence is the world of soccer is often undervalued, as it tends to be often for slower-than-average center-forwards. In the 2017-2018 season, his club statistics at Real Madrid were impressive, showing that the Frenchman played a crucial role for the team domestically and outside of the Spanish Leagues.

Karim Benzema

In 45 matches for Real Madrid, Benzema scored 14 times, two of those being from the white spot. Ten assists also show up on his stats sheet, bringing his goal involvement to above 50 percent. Although these statistics are formula for a decent forward, they can’t place him higher than the current nomination in the Ballon d’Or race. His absence in the World Cup makes matters worse, making his appearance on the December 3rd shortlist an improbable fact.

Edinson Cavani

As one of the most prolific goal scorers in the trade, Cavani’s skills have pleased the soccer audience since his Napoli days. Armed with an incredible ability to place himself in goal-scoring positions, in the 2017-2018 season he was able to score 40 times in 47 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain.

Although the French league doesn’t pose a threat with its below average defense (and any other line of formation, for that matter), Cavani’s output in the 2017-2018 Champions League season speaks for itself; in eight matches Cavani was able to score seven times. PSG did exit the competition in the Round of 16, but Cavani’s individual performance in the competition makes a case for the Uruguayan.
Edinson Cavani in a PSG uniform

Having to play alongside Neymar his prowess is often overlooked, but his World Cup performance in 2018 definitely boosts him up in the 2018 Ballon d’Or list. While in the group stage he scored against the Russian hosts (and eventual quarterfinalists), he scored two in the Round of 16 matchup against Portugal, with the second goal being one of the most memorable ones of the World Cup edition due to the effortless manner with which he received and netted the ball.

While he deserves a top five finish in the Ballon d’Or race, the competition is high and it is still early to put him in front of more productive and agile forwards.

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Only five have been announced so far — several more will be nominated as we get closer to the December 3rd awarding of the 2018 Ballon d’Or prize. Neymar, Luka Modrić, and Mo Salah will join the usual mentions of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to challenge the ten year routine of a two-horse race.


Cover photo:
Agüero photo:
Bale photo:
Alisson photo:
Benzema photo:
Cavani photo:

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