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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

When will Mohamed Salah or another Premier League player win the Ballon d'Or?

It has now been a decade since a Premier League player made the top three places

We keep hearing it: "The English Premier League is the best league in the world." Entertaining, yes. Does it contain the world's very top players? No.

Further confirmation came on Monday night at the annual Ballon d'Or awards, which are regarded as the highest individual honour for elite players. France Football magazine has been awarding the Ballon d’Or since 1956.

Luka Modric ended the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo domination, which had lasted since 2008, having won the Uefa Champions League with Real Madrid before guiding Croatia to the World Cup final in July.

But aside from recognition of Modric's performances, there is an obvious lack of Premier League names at the top.

Who was the last Premier League player in the top three?

Again, you have to go back to 2008, which was the first year Ronaldo, then of Manchester United, claimed the trophy. He was also joined by third-placed Fernando Torres of Liverpool.

Going back a little further, Ronaldo was second in 2007, Thierry Henry of Arsenal third in 2006, Chelsea's Frank Lampard second and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard third in 2005.

The only other winner during the Premier League era (since 1992) has been Michael Owen, while at Liverpool in 2001.

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 8: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool scores his team's third goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final, second leg match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on April 8, 2008 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool in 2008. Getty

Which Premier League players were in the mix this year?

There were a few, but none made the top five. Liverpool's Mohamed Salah came sixth after his prolific spell last season, a couple of goals for Egypt at the World Cup and regular goals again this season.

Eden Hazard was eighth, yet is widely regarded as the best player in the Premier League. He was followed by Manchester City's title-winner Kevin De Bruyne in ninth.

Harry Kane won the Golden Boot at the World Cup, where England reached the semi-final, and he scored goals all year long for Tottenham Hotspur, but that was only enough to see him rank 10th.

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante was 11th, Manchester United's Paul Pogba 15th, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero 16th, Liverpool had Roberto Firmino in 19th, Sadio Mane 22nd and Alisson Becker 25th, while Tottenham's Hugo Lloris was joint 29th.

Why don't Premier League players win?

The obvious explanation is that Messi and Ronaldo play elsewhere – and Ronaldo did win when he was at Manchester United. However, you would have expected someone to have made the top three, which has been dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona for the past decade.

You could point at a lack of success in Europe. Only Chelsea have won the Champions League since 2008 and five of the past 10 Ballon d'Or winners have come from the team that won Europe's top competition.

Another reason is the poor performance of England's national team in recent years. Although Messi has been hammered for his lack of success with Argentina, it is hard to downgrade his almost superhuman performances in club football.

Kane's exploits during the summer helped his cause, and had Wayne Rooney made it further in international tournaments, he probably could have expected more recognition on the back of his club honours with Manchester United.

Soccer Football - International Friendly - England v United States - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 15, 2018 England's Wayne Rooney comes on as a substitute REUTERS/Darren Staples
Wayne Rooney went through a tough run with England. Reuters

What will it take for a Premier League player to win in 2019?

Manchester City or Liverpool will have to win the Premier League and Champions League. The issue with City is that they are such a well-oiled team rather than one made up of star individuals, although De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Aguero and Raheem Sterling are of obvious quality in their own right.

For Liverpool, Salah is the standout player and will need a repeat of his record-breaking goalscoring of 2017-18.

Manchester United have the individuals, but such has been their fall from grace, they will need a remarkable turnaround in form next year. Pogba placed 15th based on his World Cup performance – his club form has led to calls for him to be sold.

Hazard, meanwhile, will need to produce something special in the Uefa Europa League and Premier League because there's no major international tournament until Euro 2020.

Then there's the Ronaldo-Messi blockade, which could come into force once again, especially because Ronaldo has hit the ground running for Juventus, who look a shoo-in for the later rounds of the Champions League and should win Serie A with ease.

Kylian Mbappe can't be discounted, either, after the Paris Saint-Germain and France star's rapid rise saw him finish fourth this year.

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Read more:

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Mourinho's mad dogs: De Rossi, Vidal and the midfield warriors Manchester United wish they had

Luka Modric wins Ballon d’Or to end Messi and Ronaldo duopoly

Updated: December 4, 2018 04:05 PM

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