Jamie Vardy crashes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or party

The Ballon d’Or is back in France Football’s possession, even though they contrived to elongate the release of this year’s shortlist to such an extent it made Fifa’s ceremonies seem snappy in comparison. At the conclusion of the nine-hour announcement on Monday there was still an air of predictability about it all.

Barring the most surprising result in the award’s 60-year history, Cristiano Ronaldo will be named the world’s best player for a fourth time on 9 January, with Lionel Messi trailing behind. While there were a couple of notable omissions from the list, which will not be cut to three as in previous years, all of the world’s best attacking players are present.

Having retaken sole ownership of the award following six years of sharing with the governing body, the magazine decided to drip-feed batches of five players to its website in alphabetical order hours apart and it was not until the final portion that the sole England player to be included, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, was announced.

A total of 30 rather than the squad of 23 used recently were named and the manner in which the nominees were made public also meant the soporific Ronaldo-versus-Messi debate plumbed new depths. Some of Ronaldo’s fans wondered if a conspiracy was afoot because the Real Madrid star had no exclamation mark at the end of a tweet confirming his inclusion while the rest did. On the other hand Messi’s supporters moaned the Portugal captain featured in the first batch because he was filed under C rather than R.

Above the inexorable pettiness fastened to this vainglorious contest the dearth of British players among the world’s best was again laid bare. Gareth Bale, after a remarkable year for club and country, has claims alongside Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann to be considered next best after Ronaldo and Messi. But the Wales and Real Madrid attacker is the only other Briton featured aside from Vardy, who was 350-1 with some bookmakers before the announcement. Those odds shortened immediately but it would be quite a shock to see him announced in the top three.

There are eight Premier League players on the list but when it comes to the winner, the Messi‑Ronaldo duopoly shows no sign of abating. This year Ronaldo is the overwhelming favourite because he won another Champions League and led Portugal to the European Championship. Significantly for a player who at times has appeared as concerned by personal titles as much as team honours, it would leave him just one behind the Argentina attacker.

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