- Usual suspects: Messi, Ronaldo, Vardy, Bale, Aguero also nominated
Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report
Nigeria’s next foe in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Algeria, has gained a psychological advantage as the team’s arrow-head, Riyad Mahrez, who plays his club football at Leicester City, was listed in the 30-man 2016 Ballon d’Or award released monday by France Football magazine.
FIFA ended its association with the award in September.
Mahrez who along with his compatriot at Leicester, Islam Slimani, are leading the Fennecs of Algeria to Uyo for the Russia 2018 qualifying showdown, has been in terrific form, fueling the speculations that the three points at stake could go either way.
Slimani though may not be on the 30-man Ballon d’Or is however hot for the Premiership champions. He announced his arrival in the English league from Portuguese club, Sporting Lisbon, with two goals against Burnley in September.
Although the Fennecs are burdened by the departure of their former Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) is believed to be making frantic efforts to hire former Belgium coach, Marc Wilmots, before the showdown with Nigeria.
The other coach on plan B of the Algerians is Rolland Courbis, who coached Niger in 2012 and was recently in charge of French club, Stade Rennaias. The former defender is also familiar with Algeria having coached local club USM Alger between 2012 and 2013.
Algeria is in a tough Africa qualifying Group B in the race to Russia 2018 along Zambia with Cameroun and Nigeria.
Mahrez’s teammate, Jamie Vardy is also on the 30-man Ballon d’Or list with usual suspects like Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi included. Messi, who claimed a record fifth award in 2015, or Ronaldo has taken the prize every year since 2007, when AC Milan’s Kaka took the honour.
Others include; Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero also featured.
Other Premier League names on the list are West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Vardy and Mahrez won the Premier League with Leicester last season and Algerian Mahrez was named Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
Bale scored three goals as Wales reached the Euro 2016 semi-final and won the Champions League with Real alongside Ronaldo.
Pogba, Payet and Lloris are included after finishing runners-up with France to Ronaldo’s Portugal at Euro 2016.
Luis Suarez and Neymar are included alongside Barcelona team-mate Messi, the trio having scored 106 club goals combined in 2016.
The prize has been awarded by France Football every year since 1956, but for the past six years it became the FIFA Ballon d’Or in association with world football’s governing body.
Five Premier League players – City’s Aguero, De Bruyne and Yaya Toure, Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard – made a 23-man shortlist last year, with Bale the only British player on the list.
Ibrahimovic and Pogba were also included last time for their performances for Paris St-Germain and Juventus respectively.
The shortlist has traditionally been trimmed to three players before the awards evening in January.
2016 Ballon d’Or Shortlist
Sergio Aguero (Man City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne (Man City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Diego Godin (Atletico ), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Neymar (Barcelona), Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Pepe (Real Madrid), Paul Pogba (Man United), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich).