Right, I do apologise, but I’m going to have to start this video with a brief rant about the Ballon d’Or. A once fine institution and award, I fear it has been somewhat sullied in recent years. I mean, to start off with we should get back to basics. It is supposed to be an award given to the best individual over the course of a calendar year, and I fear it does neither of those things.
Rather than simply being given to the best individual, it is given to the best high-profile individual from a team that has been successful that year, with huge weighting placed on the Champions League and major international tournaments. Now, quite often, measuring players by those two criteria does often result in the same outcome, but sometimes it doesn’t. Mohamed Salah was named as the best player in the Premier League last season, yet he won nothing, and that is perfectly reasonable. Individual brilliance and collective accomplishments ought not be conflated.
Secondly, there is the matter of a calendar year - which is an unusual timespan in football anyway - but that’s what it is supposed to be. It blatantly isn’t. The fact that the shortlist comes out only three quarters of the way into the year is testament to that, and everyone knows that what you do between the summer and the New Year counts for virtually nothing.
Anyhow, that’s my little rant over, today we’re going to take a look at some of the best players - based on both their form during 2018 and their ability - to have missed out on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist.
Here are our best players not nominated for the 2018 Ballon d’Or:
7. Ciro Immobile
Not a single Italian made the 2018 Ballon d’Or shortlist, and I would guess that is a very rare if not unique occurance. Italy’s absence from the 2018 World Cup and the fact that Lazio don’t even compete in the Champions League will no doubt have damaged Ciro Immobile’s Ballon d’Or credentials, but the 28-year-old had a sensational season in Serie A.
Having scored 41 goals in 47 games in the 2017-18 season, almost inspiring Lazio to a top four finish, he has a record of 25 goals in 37 games in the calendar year of 2018 so far. The sharp shooting front man with excellent movement perhaps needs to prove that he can score at the same rate outside of Italy’s domestic game, but we think his 2018 warrants being acknowledged.
6. Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho in action during the week 8 of La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain on October 7, 2018.
Having been nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2017, albeit he didn’t receive a single vote in the final stage, Philippe Coutinho missed out entirely in 2018, a year in which he joined Barcelona for more than £100 million and was arguably Brazil’s standout player at the World Cup. A fantastic footballer who plays with all the flair and creativity one expects from a Brazilian international in his position, Coutinho can operate centrally or in wide areas with equal effectiveness.
He left Liverpool last January for Barcelona, where he has already won three trophies, as well as making the 2018 World Cup Dream Team over the summer. Coutinho has scored 13 goals and assisted 8 more in 27 appearances at the Camp Nou, and he can probably feel a little hard done by not to have made the final 30.
5. Samuel Umtiti
Seven Frenchmen made the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, and perhaps the most unfortunate to miss out was Samuel Umtiti. A really assured young centre-back who is positionally intelligent, quick and strong, the former Lyon man is now a regular at Barca alongside Gerard Pique at the heart of the clubs defence.
He too won three trophies at the Camp Nou in 2018, along with the World Cup, where he scored France’s winner in their crucial 1-0 semi-final success against Belgium. There are only four defenders in the entire 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, which perhaps goes some way to explaining Umtiti’s omission, but we think he probably had a better 2018 than one or two of the players who featured.
4. Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos of Germany looks on during the UEFA Nations League A group one match between France and Germany at Stade de France on October 16, 2018 in Paris, France.
Ranked 17th in the 2017 Ballon d’Or, 17th again in the 2016 Ballon d’Or, 21st in the 2015 Ballon d’Or and 9th in the 2014 Ballon d’Or, the mathematicians among you will have added up that this is the first time in five year that Toni Kroos hasn’t made the Ballon d’Or shortlist. A central midfielder with fantastic vision and a wonderful range of passing, Kroos was the German Footballer of the Year for 2018, the first time he has won the accolade.
A key cog in a Real Madrid side which won yet another Champions League in 2018, Kroos has been thoroughly overshadowed by his central midfield partner Luka Modric this year, who some feel could even have a shot at winning the Ballon d’Or outright. Germany’s poor showing at the World Cup no doubt damaged Kroos’ credentials, but its worth noting that he did actually score a very impressive goal which ought to have rescued their tournament, as well as making the Champions League Squad of the Season for a fifth time.
3. David Silva
Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliance may have overshadowed him slightly last season, and the Belgian was rightly nominated for the Ballon d’Or, but David Silva has played arguably the best football of his career in 2018, and given the remarkably high standards that he has set over the last decade, that is some achievement.
A player seemingly tailor-made for Pep Guardiola, Silva has superb close control, a very high work rate and can pass the ball through the eye of a needle, all twinned with real versatility and footballing intelligence. He is arguably the greatest player in the history of Manchester City, but his unassuming demeanor perhaps sometimes sees him overlooked for the major honours.
2. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski of Poland reacts during the UEFA Nations League A group three match between Poland and Italy at Silesian Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Chorzow, Poland.
Another Ballon d’Or regular who missed out on this years shortlist, Robert Lewandowski finished in the top 10 of Ballon d’Or voting in 2017, and he came fourth in his best year of 2015. He might not have looked quite as sharp as usual at the World Cup, but the 30-year-old still scored 41 goals in 48 games last season, having bagged 8 from 10 so far this team, so his omission seems a little harsh.
Was he less impressive than Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, Paul Pogba or Sadio Mane in 2018? We’re not sure, but not a single Bundesliga player made the 30-man shortlist, which - once again - we suspect is a pretty rare occurrence.
0. Honourable Mentions
Right, there are a whole raft of top players who didn’t make it into the 30-man shortlist, as there always will be, so we’re just going to rattle through some particularly honourable mentions here. One man who just missed out on our seven is Virgil van Dijk. A top class centre-back, he has completely transformed the Liverpool defence since joining the club in January, and despite setting them back £75 million, he looks to have been a fine piece of business.
Whilst Ciro Immobile just snuck into our seven, a couple of Argentine Serie A forwards missed out, namely Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala. Another defensive absentee was Joshua Kimmich, who we think may be the best right-back in the world right now, although no right-back’s made the shortlist it ought to be added.
Both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have been fantastic for Manchester City in 2018, as have Ederson, Fernandinho and just about everyone in Pep Guardiola’s squad, and they are probably rather under-represented due to failing to progress further in the Champions League.
Barcelona duo Jordi Alba and the ever-brilliant Sergio Busquets both had very good 2018’s, but probably suffered from the same problem, along with Spain’s failure to get beyond the Round of 16 stage at the 2018 World Cup.
Those are some of our honourable mentions. We could, of course, go on, but they’re the ones the standout for us. Let us know which players you were really impressed with in 2018, Dejan Lovren perhaps, but before we get to that, we have our own top spot to deal with…
1. David De Gea
David De Gea of Spain looks on prior to the UEFA Nations League A group four match between Spain and England at Benito Villamarin on October 15, 2018 in Sevilla, Spain
David De Gea had the perfect cocktail of Ballon d’Or neglect by having a poor World Cup and only reaching the Round of 16 in the Champions League, but there’s no doubt in our minds that he should still have made the 30-man shortlist. Neither Thibaut Courtois nor Hugo Lloris, both of whom had very good World Cup’s and did make the shortlist, were anywhere near as good as De Gea over the entire course of 2018, or what we’ve had of it at least.
He won Manchester United’s Player of the Year award yet again in 2018, becoming the first player ever - yes, ever - to win the award four times. He has the best reflexes of any goalkeeper on the planet, and without him, there isn’t a chance in hell that Manchester United would have finished 2nd in last season’s Premier League, so De Gea is the man we feel most strongly should have been included in this year's Ballon d’Or shortlist.
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