Cristiano Ronaldo was announced alongside Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale among the first nominees for the 2016 Ballon d'Or on Monday.
The Portuguese forward and Barcelona's Lionel Messi have monopolised the gong since 2008—Ronaldo winning it three times and Messi five—and the Real star is a strong favourite to prevail again this year. Messi was added to the list of nominees Monday night.
Per the award's presenters, France Football, Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Juventus veteran Gianluigi Buffon were also included among the first nominees:
|Ballon d'Or 2016 Nominees|
|Sergio Aguero||Manchester City|
|Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Borussia Dortmund|
|Gareth Bale||Real Madrid|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Manchester City|
|Diego Godin||Atletico Madrid|
|Antoine Griezmann||Atletico Madrid|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic||Manchester United|
|Toni Kroos||Real Madrid|
|Robert Lewandowski||Bayern Munich|
|Riyad Mahrez||Leicester City|
|Luka Modric||Real Madrid|
|Thomas Muller||Bayern Munich|
|Manuel Neuer||Bayern Munich|
|Dimitri Payet||West Ham United|
|Paul Pogba||Manchester United|
|Rui Patricio||Sporting Cp|
|Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid|
|Jamie Vardy||Leicester City|
|Arturo Vidal||Bayern Munich|
The full list of 30 was completed as nominees were announced in groups of five every two hours on Monday, per BBC Sport.
After winning the UEFA Champions League with Real and Euro 2016 with Portugal this year, Ronaldo is the heavy favourite to pick up the award, with Los Blancos legend Roberto Carlos recently indicating the 31-year-old had it wrapped up already, per Bleacher Report UK:
Messi and Barca team-mate Luis Suarez will likely be his closest challengers after their immense contributions to the Blaugrana's La Liga title win in 2015-16, while Antoine Griezmann has also enjoyed an impressive year with both Atletico Madrid and the France national team.
FIFA has partnered with France Football in presenting the award since 2010 but recently ended its association, per ESPN FC.
As a result, national-team captains and coaches are no longer involved in the voting, the three finalists will not be announced before the winner is revealed, and the announcement of the victor will come before the end of the calendar year, not in January as has recently been the case, per France Football (via ESPN FC).
Per the BBC's John Bennett, Aubameyang is one of the first-time nominees this year, a deserving acknowledgement of the Gabon international's impressive recent form:
He netted 25 goals in 31 Bundesliga appearances last season and already has seven in seven in the new campaign, per WhoScored.com.
Bale's inclusion was unsurprising given his contribution for Real last term, while he was also Wales' key man on their way to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France in the summer.
Aguero continues to be City's most lethal striker—he netted 24 league goals in 30 appearances in 2015-16—and 38-year-old Buffon remains among the top goalkeepers in the world.
No player has won this award more than Messi, and the Argentinian enjoyed another fine year, guiding his team to the La Liga title. Team-mate Suarez will undoubtedly join him and Neymar on the list of nominees later on Monday.
Manchester United's Paul Pogba hasn't been at his best since returning to the Premier League during the summer, but he earned his way onto the list with his great showings for Juventus at the end of last season.
The same can be said for Dimitri Payet, who also played a big role for France during Euro 2016. Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller were both key in Bayern Munich's Bundesliga campaign.
However, after his huge efforts for both Real and Portugal in their 2016 successes, it is difficult to look beyond Ronaldo as the front-runner for the 2016 Ballon d'Or.