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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale and Alisson among first nominees for Ballon d'Or

Thirty players will be up for the award in total, with nomination announcements being split into six groups of five

Cristiano Ronaldo is sure to get a good reception from Manchester United supporters when he lines up for Italian side Juventus in their Champions League group match on Tuesday. AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo is sure to get a good reception from Manchester United supporters when he lines up for Italian side Juventus in their Champions League group match on Tuesday. AFP

Gareth Bale, Sergio Aguero and Alisson Becker are among the first nominees announced for this year's Ballon d'Or award.

The honour, now separate from FIFA's own Best player of the year award, is bestowed annually by France Football magazine with the 30 nominees announced in groups of five, in alphabetical order.

Wales star Bale - whose bicycle kick against Liverpool helped clinch the Champions League for Real Madrid - joined Manchester City striker Aguero and Liverpool keeper Alisson in the first batch.

Bale's club-mate Karim Benzema and Paris St Germain striker Edinson Cavani were the other names in the initial quintet.

Last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo headlined the second batch of nominations announced at 11am BST.

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The forward has won the award the last two years and five times in total - a record he shares with Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo played a key role in Real's European triumph last season and scored a World Cup hat-trick for Portugal against Spain before signing for Juventus, and has been in the headlines recently after strenuously denying allegations of rape.

He is joined among the nominees by Premier League pair Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) and Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), as well as Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin.

Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane and Chelsea pair Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante increased the Premier League representation when the third set of nominees was announced.

Kane scored 30 Premier League goals last season, the first time he has reached the landmark, and then won the World Cup Golden Boot with six goals as England reached the semi-finals.

Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann, a World Cup winner with France, and Real and Spain midfielder Isco are also in contention.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold was among the nominations for the first Kopa Trophy - an award for the best player under the age of 21 to be voted for by the previous 33 winners of the main award.

An outstanding debut season saw the full-back play in the Champions League final against Real Madrid before breaking into the England World Cup squad at the end of the campaign.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is among the early nominees for the Ballon d'Or. AP Photo / Rui Vieira
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is among the early nominees for the Ballon d'Or. AP Photo / Rui Vieira

World Cup winner and Paris St Germain forward Kylian Mbappe was also nominated in the 10-man shortlist.

Kirby's nomination for the inaugural Women's Ballon d'Or comes after she was crowned PFA Player's Player of the Year and Football Writers' Women's Footballer of the year for the 2017/18 season after a stellar campaign with Chelsea, and on Saturday scored the only goal for England in a 1-0 win over Brazil.

Bronze is another who has previously been recognised domestically, but added to her list of honours with a Champions League medal as well as a French league title with Lyon.

Brazil's Marta, a six-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award, was also nominated.

Tottenham and France captain Hugo Lloris was included in the fourth batch of names released by France Football for the men's award, having led his country to World Cup glory and another top-four finish for Spurs.

He was joined by Liverpool's Sadio Mane. He scored 23 goals for club and country - including one in the Champions League final defeat in May - despite Senegal's failure to qualify for the knockout stages in the summer.

Mbappe is again included after lighting up the latter stages of the competition and finishing joint-second in the race for the Golden Boot behind Kane.

Paul Pogba might have struggled to consistently replicate his summer form with Manchester United this season, but his strong performances out in Russia mean he is included on the 30-man shortlist.

The midfielder was an integral part of the France squad that marched to glory and capped off a memorable tournament with a stunning strike in the final.

Messi, who won the award four times in a row from 2009-2013 and has it five times in total, is also included having taken Argentina almost single-handedly into the World Cup, but if he is to claim the Ballon d'Or for a sixth time he must see off Golden Ball winner Luka Modric as well as Neymar, who were also recognised along with goalkeeper Jan Oblak.