PARIS: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk have all been shortlisted for this year's Ballon d'Or prize, as France Football announced its 30-man shortlist last night.
Mane and Van Dijk were among seven Liverpool players to be named and were joined by Premier League counterparts Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among others.
Mane, Salah and Van Dijk's Liverpool team-mates Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold were also included for their involvement in Liverpool's sixth Champions League triumph.
Megan Rapinoe is the leading candidate for the second ever women’s Ballon D’Or, while the holder of the men’s award, Luka Modric, and the world’s most expensive player Neymar missed out as France Football unveiled nominees in four categories.
Modric, fresh from guiding Croatia to a World Cup final, broke the 11-year Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi, who are both included, stranglehold on the men’s award last year.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, who cost the French club 222 million euros (US$247 million) in 2017, failed to make the 30-man shortlist after a year overshadowed by injury, suspension and controversy for both club and country.
Messi has just collected the FIFA Best award, as did Rapinoe, which split from the Ballon D’Or in 2016.
Rapinoe dominated the Women’s World Cup, on and off the field, in the summer.
She was joint top scorer and was voted player of the tournament as she led the United States to victory in France in July.
The 34-year-old Reign FC playmaker, already a campaigner for LGBT rights and gender equality, made headlines during the tournament by publicly taking on US President Donald Trump.
Last year, Norwegian Ada Hegerberg was the first women’s winner.
The Lyon forward did not play in the World Cup but is among the 20 nominees as are stars who were present at the competition, such as Australia striker Sam Kerr, England’s Lucy Bronze and France captain Amandine Henry.
Van Dijk, 28, who has had an impressive six months with Liverpool lifting the Champions League, could become a rare defensive winner of the men’s award.
Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win in 2006, and only the fourth since the award began in 1956.
Another nominee, Kylian Mbappe, the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 last season, would represent a genuine change of the guard.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker is ineligible to defend his Kopa trophy for the best player under 21 last year as he celebrates his 21st birthday on Dec 20.
This year also sees the introduction of the Yashin trophy, named after the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon D’Or, Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union, to give that ignored minority a chance to get their hands on a prize of their own.
The award winners will be unveiled on Dec 2 during a ceremony in Paris after a voting process, including journalists from 180 different countries.