Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 1 October 2020

Lionel Messi and Megan Rapinoe favourites to win Ballon d'Or awards

Ceremony takes place in Paris on Monday

The 2019 Ballon d'Or awards take place in Paris on Monday with Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi and USA women's World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe tipped for honours.

It's hard to imagine anyone but Rapinoe walking out of the Chatelet Theatre with the women's prize after spearheading the USA to a fourth World Cup crown in the summer.

The forward won the Golden Ball for best player as well as the Golden Boot for her six tournament goals, including a penalty in the 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final held in Lyon.

There is more competition for the men's award, with last year's winner Luka Modric not among the 30 nominees, organised by France Football magazine and voted for by 180 journalists from around the world.

The Real Madrid midfielder was rewarded for a fine year in which he helped his club win the Champions League as well as take his national team Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, ultimately losing to France.

That ended a decade in which Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had won the Ballon d'Or five times each, but the Barcelona man is favourite to beat his arch-nemesis to a sixth crown.

While Juventus and Portugal star Ronaldo is certainly in with a shout, others are in the reckoning too.

Seven of the Liverpool side that lifted the Champions League in June are nominated, with Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk the Reds' leading candidate for the award.

At one point he looked like the favourite, but Messi already pipped him to Fifa's The Best title in September. Messi, 32, was the top scorer in La Liga last season with 36 goals as Barcelona won a second successive title.

Though he failed to shine at the Copa America in Brazil - Argentina finished fourth with Messi sent off in the third-place play-off against Chile - he has still displayed his undoubted genius often enough for his club to merit claims as the best player in the world.

"If you give the Ballon d'Or to the best player of this generation then you should give it always to Lionel Messi. That's how it is," admitted Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp last month.

"But if you give it to the best player of last season, then it was Virgil van Dijk. I don't know exactly how it will work but that is how I see it."

The value of individual honours in football is debatable, and the timing less than ideal midway through the European club season.

Yet surely nobody could suggest Rapinoe would not be a deserving winner of just the second women's Ballon d'Or, an award voted for by a panel of 48 journalists.

Norway's Ada Hegerberg won it in 2018 but will not retain her title after missing the World Cup.

Among the stars of that tournament to be nominated are England's Lucy Bronze, Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema, Australia's Sam Kerr and the USA trio of Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and Tobin Heath.

However Rapinoe, the 34-year-old feminist and outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump, is clear favourite to cap a hugely successful year, with even her rivals seemingly rooting for her.

"She does lots of things off the pitch, but I think she is the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or mainly down to her performances during the World Cup," Bronze told France Football.

The awards ceremony takes place at 8pm UAE.

Nominees for the 2019 Ballon d'Or to be awarded in Paris on Monday:

Men

Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool), Sergio Aguero (ARG/Manchester City), Frenkie de Jong (NED/Barcelona), Hugo Lloris (FRA/Tottenham), Dusan Tadic (SER/Ajax), Kylian Mbappe (FRA/PSG), Trent Alexander-Arnold (ENG/Liverpool), Donny van de Beek (NED/Ajax), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (GAB/Arsenal), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER/Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus), Alisson (BRA/Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (NED/Juventus), Karim Benzema (FRA/Real Madrid), Georginio Wijnaldum (NED/Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (POR/Manchester City), Son Heung-min (KOR/Tottenham), Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich), Roberto Firmino (BRA/Liverpool), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (BEL/Manchester City), Kalidou Koulibaly (SEN/Napoli), Antoine Griezmann (FRA/Barcelona), Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool), Eden Hazard (BEL/Real Madrid), Marquinhos (BRA/Paris-SG), Raheem Sterling (ENG/Manchester City), Joao Félix(POR/Atletico Madrid)

Women

Sam Kerr (AUS/Chelsea), Ellen White (ENG/Manchester City), Nilla Fischer (SWE/Linköpings), Amandine Henry (FRA/Lyon), Lucy Bronze(ENG/Lyon), Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride), Vivianne Miedema (NED/Arsenal), Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon), Pernille Harder (DEN/Wolfsburg), Sarah Bouhaddi (FRA/Lyon), Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC), Lieke Martens (NED/Barcelona), Sari van Veenendal (NED/Atletico Madrid), Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon), Rose Lavelle(USA/Washington Spirit), Marta (BRA/Orlando Pride), Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon), Kosovare Asllani (SWE/CD Tacon), Sofia Jakobsson (SWE/CD Tacon), Tobin Heath (USA/Portland Thorns)

Updated: December 1, 2019 09:04 PM

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