Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi are both included in FIFA’s 23-man shortlist for the Best Men's Player award.
The list in full was posted on FIFA’s Twitter feed on Friday:
After ending their association with the Ballon d’Or earlier in 2016, the gong will be awarded at the Best Football Awards in Zurich on January 9, 2017. The new format will also allow fans to have a say on the destination of the accolade.
Ronaldo and Messi will be the favourites for the award, having excelled during the previous year—even by their own impeccable standards.
The Real Madrid man netted the winning penalty for his team in the final of the UEFA Champions League before inspiring Portugal to glory at the UEFA European Championship. Messi was key to Barcelona winning a domestic double of La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Indeed, La Liga is well represented in the list. Ronaldo’s team-mates Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos make the cut, while Barcelona stars Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Neymar are also in the hunt.
Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann also features despite being a runner-up in the finals of the both the Champions League and the European Championship. Nonetheless, even with those near misses, the forward was so often the difference for Atletico last season, per OptaJose:
The Premier League’s representatives are a nod to Leicester City’s stunning title triumph in 2015-16.
Current Foxes stars Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are worthy inclusions, as they dazzled in the final third for Claudio Ranieri’s side. Additionally, former Leicester man N’Golo Kante, now of Chelsea, has been recognised with a nomination after a string of powerful midfield displays.
After Arsenal stars Alexis Sanchez—a Copa America winner with Chile—and Mesut Ozil were both omitted from the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, fans of the Gunners will be delighted to see them in the mix here.
Per Martin Laurence of WhoScored.com, the latter has added goals to his game as of late, cementing his world-class status:
Also included is Paul Pogba, the most expensive player in history following his move from Juventus to Manchester United in the summer.
However, after an inconsistent start to life at Old Trafford, his inclusion is likely founded on winning another title with the Serie A side earlier in the year. The same applies for fellow Red Devils man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who excelled at Paris Saint-Germain before a summer switch to the Premier League, winning Ligue 1 for a fourth time.
The candidates from the Bundesliga are both from Bayern Munich. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer remains the standout performer in his position in the world game, while Robert Lewandowski confirmed his status as one of the best strikers around in 2016.
The only inclusion from a Serie A side is an icon of the sport. Despite being 38 years old, Juve stopper Gianluigi Buffon continues to dazzle between the sticks for the Bianconeri and Italy.
As noted by the FIFA website, the winner of the award will be determined by an overall score that is calculated from a combination of votes from supporters and media figures, as well as national-team captains and head coaches. The former two will make up half the total, with the latter two sections’ votes contributing to the remaining 50 per cent.