The 2018 Ballon d’Or looks to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s to lose following Real Madrid’s Champions League winning season and his continued ability to reinvent himself slightly to accommodate his aging frame.
The Portuguese international is also enjoying a fruitful World Cup, where he has scored four goals in two games and if he can somehow drag “the navigators” to the later stages of the competition in Russia he will only further cement his position as 4/11 favourite to lift his sixth Ballon d’Or, breaking his stalemate with long term rival Lionel Messi, who has five.
The biggest talking point could be if Mohamed Salah (5/1) can become the first person since Andres Iniesta in 2010 to split the two and finish second in the voting process. Egyptian kingpin Salah exploded onto the scene this season in a potent Liverpool front three, scoring 44 goals, guiding the Merseyside club to the Champions League final and a third-place league finish. Ultimately it wasn’t to be for Salah in Kiev as a clash with Sergio Ramos ended his match prematurely and his subsequent form for Egypt at the World Cup has been poor.
One could argue that Salah hasn’t yet won anything, while his two direct opponents for the gong have both lead their teams to trophies in 2018, but it is hard to dispute that he’s had one of the great Premier League seasons and deserves his place within the top three.
The last time Lionel Messi (6/1) didn’t feature in the top three placings in the Ballon d’Or was 2006, longer than this bonus code. A year where Italy won the World Cup and Fabio Cannavaro picked up the award with Gianluigi Buffon in second place. How times have changed since. Italy didn’t even make it to this World Cup while no defender and only one goalkeeper have featured in the final three of the Ballon d’Or in that period.
It is sure to irk the Argentine that Cristiano Ronaldo will move ahead of him on the all-time winners list despite giving the more memorable individual performances throughout the season. In the end, it could just be Argentina’s poor performance in Russia, barring some magical turnaround in their final group game, that will seal his position as third in the voting.
The 2018 Ballon d’Or will be decided in December by a group of journalists, national team coaches and captains in a process which will be scrutinised endlessly no matter what the outcome. Yet debate and opinion is a big part of what makes football beautiful, long may it continue.