The 30-man shortlist for the 2017 Ballon d'Or award has dropped, and it's fair to say there are some eye-popping inclusions from the nominators over at France Football (h/t the Daily Mirror).
The likes of Philippe Coutinho and Mats Hummels find themselves in the running for the award, along with a slew of Real Madrid players, rising star Kylian Mbappe, and of course, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Here, we've taken the 30 shortlisted players and ranked them in order of how strong their calendar year was—and therefore how strong their claim is for the award. Domestic, continental and international football all counts, and remember it's over the course of the year, not the 2016-17 season.
30. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
Coutinho's reputation in the game soared this past summer following Barcelona's avid chase for his signature, and to be frank, that's probably the main reason he's made the 30-man shortlist.
His best spell of form came just prior to Christmas in 2016, when he blew the doors off Premier League teams, but he then got injured, was slow to begin 2017 and missed game-time this term due to his transfer saga.
To his credit, though, he's been largely brilliant for Brazil opposite Neymar.
29. David De Gea, Manchester United
Joining Coutinho in the "only here because of reputation" stakes is De Gea. There's no doubt he's a phenomenal player—one of the best three goalkeepers in the world—but 2017 has hardly been his busiest year.
He's been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League through seven weeks of this campaign, coming to life after 80 minutes of doing nothing to pull off a magnificent save; the first half of the year was pretty similar, except with fewer magnificent saves.
He barely played any European football in 2016-17, with Sergio Romero donning the gloves for most of the Europa League fixtures. He's amazing, but he hasn't really achieved anything trophy-wise and his performance levels haven't had to rise to the point where he stands out.
28. Luis Suarez, Barcelona
It hasn't really been Suarez's year; he's struggled in front of goal for the first time in his career, and the bad "patch" he found himself in at the end of last season has extended into this one.
Fortunately, the Uruguayan is not just a finisher, so even if he's not finding the back of the net regularly, he's always contributing in other phases. Plus, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has decided the best way for him to overcome this hump is to play him and wait for the tide to turn.
Perhaps that will be just in time for a scintillating 2018.
27. Mats Hummels, Bayern Munich
Hummels' inclusion on the shortlist is an intriguing one. There's no doubt he is superb, but like much of the Bayern Munich contingent in 2017, he hasn't exactly shone.
A few knocks and niggles here and there limited him to 24 starts in the Bundesliga last season, and he's only been OK to start this term.
26. Sadio Mane, Liverpool
Mane's inclusion on this 30-man shortlist is also rather questionable. He missed a big chunk of Premier League games due to a knee injury, and he also went to the Africa Cup of Nations (where he underwhelmed a tad) in January, ensuring he missed both league and cup action for Liverpool.
No one is doubting the Senegalese's talent, but has he been on the pitch enough in 2017 to warrant being here?
25. Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
On one hand, it seems about right to nominate the central striker of the Champions League-winning team for the Ballon d'Or. Real Madrid were an offensive powerhouse and Benzema was part of that.
But on the other hand, it's a pretty quizzical decision. Benzema has had a pretty rough year by his own high standards, and in the second half of last season, he managed just eight goals in combined La Liga and Champions League play. That's not leading from the front.
24. Edin Dzeko, AS Roma
Last season, Dzeko figured out the key to success in Serie A: volume of shots. AS Roma fed him chance after chance and he just took shot after shot—his 4.8 per game was the most in the division—and his reward was 29 goals and a Capocannoniere title.
This season he's upped the ante even further, averaging six shots per game in seven matches so far. He's right in among the top goalscorers in the league again, which brings us to the key reason he's on this list: The consistency with which he has scored goals in 2017 is remarkable.
It's still far too early in the 2017-18 season to be making Player of the Season calls, but if De Bruyne continues as he is, he'll be in with a shout come May.
His low deliveries cause chaos, his threaded passing is killing defences and, perhaps most crucially, he's scoring more too.
22. Eden Hazard, Chelsea
That season or so in the wilderness is now firmly in the rearview mirror, and the stellar Hazard we know and love is back with us.
There was a pretty strong argument for him winning the Premier League's Player of the Season award in 2016-17, as his level of performance was both so high and so close to N'Golo Kante's. He returned to that dazzling, jinking, dribbling presence that wrecks defences at will.
When assessing his 2017, though, it must be noted that this campaign hasn't really begun for him yet, as injury prevented him from taking part in pre-season and the opening glut of games for Chelsea.
21. Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid
Your most recent memory of Oblak might well be carelessly chucking the ball out to Kyle Walker at Wembley Stadium last week on the way to a late, winning goal, but don't let that taint your view of his strong 2017.
20. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
When Kane gets on a hot streak, there's practically no stopping him. In an 11-month year (minus August), defences would have no respite against what has become a force of nature in front of goal.
He ended the 2016-17 season in ridiculous form, netting seven goals in his last two games to leapfrog Romelu Lukaku and scoop the Golden Boot. He has already bagged 11 in all competitions for Tottenham this season, as well as four in his last four for England in World Cup qualifying action.
The wider world doesn't quite view Kane as an elite striker just yet, but how long will it be before that changes?
19. N'Golo Kante, Chelsea
Back-to-back Premier League title wins have seen Kante transition from a nobody at Caen to one of the world's finest midfielders in the space of two years. You'll struggle to find five similarly steep ascents in any position over the past decade.
Despite his star status, he's still often wrongly pigeon-holed as a Claude Makelele-type who sits and destroys—despite the fact we have 24 months of evidence to the contrary. He's a box-to-box impactor, capable of threading passes, dribbling past players and linking play too.
18. Dries Mertens, Napoli
"It's a shame that we only discovered Mertens as a striker last year," Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri said, per Reuters, in September.
The 30-year-old played his entire career as a winger up until about this time last year, when Arek Milik's serious knee injury forced Napoli into trying new methods up top. The one that stuck was Mertens, whose explosivity, speed and incredibly calm finishing immediately jumped to the fore.
Nowadays, he just looks embarrassed when he scores—it really is that easy for him. His haul of 28 Serie A goals from 28 starts last season has been followed up by seven in six this term.
17. Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain
The 2016-17 season was Cavani's first as the central striker at PSG, and he responded with a truck load of goals.
He and the team may have thrown a huge lead at Barcelona in the Champions League, but just before the great comeback began, the Uruguayan smacked the post with a vicious effort. It could have been so different.
Cavani has begun this campaign in similarly excellent goalscoring form, with eight from eight in Ligue 1 and three from two in the Champions League. He's part of a significantly better team now, so perhaps in a year's time—when we review the 2018 Ballon d'Or nominees—PSG's success will have paved the way for a much higher ranking for the striker.
16. Leonardo Bonucci, AC Milan
Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini were huge parts of Juventus' run to the Champions League final, and it's a surprise the latter wasn't also nominated for this award. They were both titanic against Barcelona in the quarter-final, putting their bodies on the line when it mattered the most.
Bonucci is seen as the more vogue option of the two due to his prowess with the ball at his feet, and that's perhaps why he edged his now-former colleague to the shortlist.
We've ranked him a fair bit lower than Gianluigi Buffon here because his start to life at AC Milan hasn't quite gone to plan so far.
15. Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid
Griezmann rejected the opportunity for a blockbuster move to Manchester United this summer, opting to stay with Atletico and help them through their transfer ban. It was a wonderful gesture and an example of why he's so popular with the club's fans.
He knows he's intrinsic to the success of the team. With Kevin Gameiro failing to fire, Juanfran declining and injuries being a serious problem in midfield, there's more pressure than ever on his goals to make the difference in games.
Many would buckle under that weight, but Griezmann plays with a smile on his face.
14. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund
Aubameyang has blossomed into one of the deadliest strikers in world football. His performance and confidence levels seem a far cry from those we saw when he first joined Borussia Dortmund in 2013, and we must hand credit to former BVB boss Thomas Tuchel for moulding such a dangerous player.
The Gabon international combines speed and finishing to devastating effect, and while he does miss a few chances, he put enough away in 2016-17 to claim the Bundesliga's top-scorer award ahead of Robert Lewandowski.
13. Radamel Falcao, AS Monaco
Lay football fans tuning in for the Ballon d'Or nominations may see Radamel Falcao's name and furrow their brows, but the man we saw flop in the Premier League is not the man we see today.
He's already netted 12 Ligue 1 goals in 2017-18, beginning the campaign on fire, and he has become key for Colombia again.
Welcome back, El Tigre. The game missed you.
12. Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain
Calendar years really don't get that much better than Mbappe's 2017. If you think he's ranked too high here, cast your minds back over his last 10 months.
He was a surprise starter for Monaco vs. Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16, but he justified the decision with a goal. From there he exploded, continued to score, became the first to beat Gianluigi Buffon from open play in the Champions League latter stages, debuted for France, and then moved to PSG for what could become a €180 million fee.
Now he's team-mates with Neymar. How was your year?
11. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich may have stuttered their way through 2017-18 to an extent so far, but were it not for Lewandowski's goals, they would be significantly worse off.
No matter the issue, no matter how much background noise threatens to overwhelm the club, "Lewy" has scored reliably and plentifully. He's averaging more than a goal per game in the Bundesliga this season and notched 30 in total last term.
When you add that to his heroics for Poland in driving them to the 2018 World Cup finals as Group E winners, it's clear he's had one hell of a year.
10. Isco, Real Madrid
Few players benefit from this award judging a calendar year rather than a season, but Isco is one of them. He missed important parts of the first half of 2016-17, including most of the Champions League group-stage matches, but he won his spot in the team just in time for the business end to kick in and shone.
Really, it was Isco who dragged Real Madrid past Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals with a crucial goal, and it was him hitting form that saw Los Blancos tweak their system to incorporate him late on. The results speak for themselves.
9. Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus
The tears you saw leaking from Buffon's eyes at the end of the Champions League final in June were those of a man who realised that was probably his last chance at winning European football's top prize. It's a such a shame there was no fairytale ending for the 39-year-old Juventus goalkeeper.
Still, not let's not allow that to cloud what a phenomenal run he had up until that night in Cardiff, Wales, and how he has—generally speaking—been his usual self between the sticks in 2017. In particular, that two-legged tie against Barcelona that saw Buffon come face-to-face with Lionel Messi and walk away the victor.
This current season could be Buffon's last. Enjoy him while you can.
8. Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid
Real Madrid's big games in 2017 only lacked one thing: late Ramos goals. It's the thing he's become most famous for—despite the fact he's a centre-back—and although he hit double figures in 2016-17, we weren't treated to many last-gasp strikes in the Champions League knockout stages.
Instead, Ramos has been nominated for the Ballon d'Or and holds a strong position in this ranking because of his all-round play.
Fewer mistakes are being made in a defensive capacity, and when he shuttles forward to join the attack, he looks right at home among the attacking midfielders and strikers.
7. Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
It's taken around half of that time for Kroos to find his best level at the Bernabeu, but now it's here, it really is something to behold. A masterful, smart midfielder, he's not as agile as Luka Modric or as defensively stable as Casemiro, but he mixes all their best qualities and adds tactical acumen in spades.
Somewhere along his progression line, he assumed the key mantle in Germany's all-conquering side under Joachim Low. He's now essentially his nation's best and most important player.
6. Marcelo, Real Madrid
"X retired Y" is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot on social media, and it's often used carelessly.
But there's a pretty decent chance this applies directly to Marcelo and Philipp Lahm, as after the former tore past the latter over and over during last year's Champions League quarter-finals, it was soon announced Lahm would be hanging up his boots.
That performance of Marcelo's encapsulated him as a player perfectly: Industry, speed, defensive solidity and attacking thrust. He's so well-rounded that no other left-back currently comes close to his level.
5. Luka Modric, Real Madrid
Modric reaching his prime over the last two years is a key reason why Real Madrid have elevated themselves above every other club in that period.
A wizard of a midfielder, his impact has always been difficult to quantify statistically, and the Croatian stands the scourge of comparison matrices or per 90 measures. Instead, you simply have to take in his genius with your eyes; watch him dictate games effortlessly, ping passes around with precision and shrug off challenges with consummate ease.
4. Paulo Dybala, Juventus
Not one player in black and white played well that night, though, so to castigate a 23-year-old for not showing up when Gonzalo Higuain, Buffon and Chiellini are on the same team seems ludicrous.
Outside of that fixture—an incredibly hard fixture, might we add—the Argentinian has sparkled non-stop. He may have played second fiddle to Higuain for the first half of the year with regard to importance, but he raced past him in the second half.
His 10 goals from 556 minutes of Serie A play are the main reason Juventus have been able to paper over the cracks at the beginning of this campaign; he's winning games single-handedly, with two hat-tricks under his belt already.
We are witnessing Dybala's transition to the elite tier. Enjoy it.
3. Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain
Neymar's 2017 has peaked and troughed a little, but it's clear it's going to end on a high note.
Since moving to PSG for a world-record fee, he has been flabbergastingly brilliant. Goals, assists, step-overs and take-ons have rained down on Ligue 1 following the Brazilian's arrival, and his very presence has unequivocally lifted the capital club into the elite tier of European sides.
It's still easy to recall what was probably his best game ever in February, when he ran riot against the team he now plays for, but his non-performance against Juventus in the following round feels just as memorable. That, if anything, has helped draw the line between Neymar and the top two.
2. Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Messi's mind-boggling start to the 2017-18 season has vaulted him close to our No. 1 selection for the Ballon d'Or. If recency bias creeps into the voting, his chances will enhance even further.
In the second half of last season Barcelona flopped, but any criticisms you can level at the club do not apply to their Argentinian talisman. He did all he could to drag them through, sparkling against Juventus in the Champions League despite eventually losing, and netting a respectable 54 goals in all competitions.
This term Barca are keeping up with Messi. He's already scored 11 in La Liga (in just seven games), and that's directly led to seven victories, lifting the club seven points clear of Real Madrid.
That co-participation is crucial; the Ballon d'Or is an individual award but relies at least partially on the achievements of the player's team. That's where Messi (or Barca) falls in 2017.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
History would suggest Ronaldo has had this award in the bag since the moment he and his Real Madrid colleagues lifted the Champions League trophy on June 3 in Cardiff. His impact during the run to the final and in the showpiece event itself was well enough to guarantee the Ballon d'Or.
It doesn't even matter that a foolish five-game suspension this season has hampered his ability to help Real Madrid get their La Liga title defence off to a good start. With so much credit in the bank from February to June, he'd have to do the unthinkable to let this one slip.
He stepped forward consistently at key moments, netting a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the semis and a brace in Cardiff to kill off Juventus once and for all.
All the while, he's been a leader for Portugal in their quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals, scoring consistently and shouldering expectations with ease. Crown the man; he deserves it.
All statistics via WhoScored.com, Transfermarkt.co.uk
Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2737670-2017-ballon-dor-power-rankings-after-30-man-shortlist-revealed