Only twice in its 22-year history has the Premier League produced the winner of the Ballon d’Or. Michael Owen won the 2001 award after helping Liverpool win a cup treble, and in 2008 Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo was triumphant.
But England’s top flight is producing more and more world-class players, and here we take a look at five potential winners of the world player of the year award.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s Uruguayan marksman has always had talent, but has not always had the mindset to display that talent consistently. This season, however, has been different. Suarez’s return of 22 goals from just 18 appearances is quite stunning, as has been the quality of those goals. His form has been comparable with the likes of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Suarez has improved just about every part of his game, coupling a razor-sharp instinct for goal with a phenomenal work-rate. If he maintains his current form, he will certainly figure in the voting in the coming years. The big question is: can Liverpool keep him?
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
It is easy to criticise Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for his conservatism in the transfer market, but when his occasional forays produce a player of Ozil’s standard, you can only admire his judgement. While Ozil has not quite lit up the Premier League in the way some expected, after his £42.5m move from Real Madrid, his impact has nonetheless been significant. The German adds guile and thrust to Arsenal’s midfield, equally capable of scoring goals as he is supplying them. His arrival has been one of the drivers behind Arsenal’s transformation from title outsiders to genuine contenders. Still only 25, Ozil is now set to devote the best years of his career to Arsenal.
For moments of individual brilliance, not many players can match Manchester City’s playmaking maestro, nicknamed ‘Merlin’ by his team-mates. Silva has already won the Premier League and FA Cup with City, and could well be on his way to a second domestic title this season. He also helped Spain to win Euro 2012. Not renowned for his goal-scoring – although when he does score it is inevitably a goal of quality - Silva does his best work outside the penalty area. Last season he managed 13 assists in 41 appearances. At 28, Silva is approaching the peak of his career, but if he keeps performing at his current level he may well be in the Ballon d’Or running by the time he is 30.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
2014 may is set to be Hazard’s year, and he has started it in spectacular form. The 23-year-old is now fulfilling the potential that Chelsea saw when they parted with £32m for his services in the summer of 2012. He has scored 11 goals this season already for Jose Mourinho’s team, and is set to be the driving force behind their push for the Premier League title. A little like Suarez at Liverpool, the big question-mark is whether Chelsea will be able to keep him. Paris Saint-Germain have displayed interest, and it is a fair bet that Europe’s top clubs will be sniffing around during the summer. Wherever he ends up, if he keeps his attitude in check, he can fulfil Mourinho’s prediction and become the best player in the world.
Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
Not next year, and probably not within the next three years, but eventually, Manchester United’s emerging star will surely be ready to challenge Europe’s finest for the Ballon d’Or crown. The teenager’s performance against SwanseaCity last week, when his creativity was the driving force behind both goals, was his most complete display yet in a United shirt. David Moyes will be sure to protect Januzaj, nurturing his development rather than rushing it. That said, Januzaj has taken to first-team football with ease, and is displaying the maturity which all world-class players need. At 18, he has already become United’s talisman, and is thriving under the pressure.
image: © RuaraidhG