FIFA have announced the three finalists for The Best Men’s Player of the Year – Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.
Incredibly, five time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi failed to make the cut, despite another stunning season in Spain, resulting in his first omission from the final three of an award of this magnitude since 2006.
“34 goals, a La Liga and Copa del Rey with Barcelona, top goalscorer in Spain, joint-top for assists, most chances created, most shots, most take-ons…in every statistical element Messi was number one in Spain,” Adriano Del Monte said on Afternoons on FNR.
He also single-handily secured Argentina’s passage to the World Cup, after producing a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador in qualifying.
This coming after a weekend where Messi became the first player to reach 150 assists in La Liga.
He’s superior to all domestically, but has not been classified as one of the top three footballers in the world over the past season.
So the question is - just how important are the FIFA Best Awards, compared to the most prestigious award of them all, the Ballon d’Or?
Not that important. Especially when Messi and Ronaldo have each won the Ballon d’Or five times - a rivalry that dates back to 2007, when Kaka won it ahead of second-placed Ronaldo and third-placed Messi.
In 2008 the Portuguese captain was the clear winner and then in 2009 Messi trumped Ronaldo by 240 points, before going on to win the next three.
Should France Football – the reputable French weekly magazine that present the Ballon d’Or – leave Messi out of this season’s shortlist, then it really will be the end of an era.
Despite the quality of players such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, who recently won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, dominating domestically may not be enough, particularly in a World Cup year.
Mohamed Salah scored 44 goals in all competitions last season - his performances were outstanding - however Liverpool failed to win any major tournament.
The FIFA Best awards will be announced in London on September 24, while the all important Ballon d’Or finalists will be confirmed later in 2018.