It’s a tough business being a defender in football, or pretty much any sport for that matter.
You’re expected to put your body, nay, head on the line in the name of the cause, while your attacking teammates take all the plaudits for their goals, assists and creative play.
Well, it appears as if change is on the way….
The shortlist for the Ballon d’Or 2019 has been released, and heading the betting market is a defender that makes the dark art look like a Picasso masterwork.
Virgil van Dijk is as short as 4/9 with the bookies to claim the prestigious prize, and that would make the first defender to lift the trophy since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. The Dutchman would become only the second centre back to win the Ballon d’Or in the past two decades too.
A fantastic year for English football, both domestically and on the continent, has been respected by the judges, with 15 players from English sides nominated for the prize, which will be dished out in a fancy ceremony in Paris on December 2.
As Champions League winners, it’s not a big surprise to learn that Liverpool have earned the most nominations on the shortlist.
Seven of Jurgen Klopp’s men are in the running for the Ballon d’Or, including Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gini Wijnaldum and of course Van Dijk.
Man City are next best with five nominations (Sterling, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Aguero and Bernardo Silva), while the London clubs are represented by Hugo Lloris, Son Heung-min and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
|Sergio Aguero (ARG)||Manchester City||T Alexander-Arnold (ENG)||Liverpool|
|P-E Aubameyang (GAB)||Arsenal||Alisson (BRA)||Liverpool|
|Karim Benzema (FRA)||Real Madrid||Kevin De Bruyne (BEL)||Manchester City|
|Frenkie de Jong (NED)||Ajax/Barcelona||Matthijs de Ligt (NED)||Ajax/Juventus|
|Joao Felix (POR)||Benfica/Atletico||Roberto Firmino (BRA)||Liverpool|
|Antoine Griezmann (FRA)||Atletico/Barcelona||Eden Hazard (BEL)||Chelsea/Real Madrid|
|Kalidou Koulibaly (SEN)||Napoli||R Lewandowski (POL)||Bayern Munich|
|Hugo Lloris (FRA)||Tottenham Hotspur||Riyad Mahrez (ALG)||Manchester City|
|Sadio Mane (SEN)||Liverpool||Marquinhos (BRA)||PSG|
|Kylian Mbappe (FRA)||PSG||Lionel Messi (ARG)||Barcelona|
|Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)||Juventus||Mohamed Salah (EGY)||LIverpool|
|Bernardo Silva (POR)||Manchester City||Son Heung-Min (KOR)||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Raheem Sterling (ENG)||Manchester City||Dusan Tadic (SER)||Ajax|
|Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER)||Barcelona||Donny van de Beek (NED)||Ajax|
|Vigil van Dijk (NED)||Liverpool||G Wijnaldum (NED)||Liverpool|
Perhaps surprisingly, there were snubs for the likes of Harry Kane, David Silva and Paul Pogba.
From a European perspective, both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are nominated – their seven-year monopoly on the Ballon d’Or came to an end courtesy of Luka Modric 12 months ago, while other big names such as Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard are also present on the shortlist.
Notable by their absence are Gareth Bale and Neymar, who have been overlooked in favour of the likes of exciting youngster Joao Felix, Kalidou Koulibaly and – incredibly – former Southampton man Dusan Tadic.
England hasn’t produced a men’s Ballon d’Or winner since Michael Owen in 2001, so the likes of Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be looking to end 18 years of hurt in Paris this time around.
Bronze Going for Gold
The nominations for the Women’s Ballon d’Or have also been revealed, with England’s Lucy Bronze and Ellen White featuring highly.
The headliners are undoubtedly World Cup winners Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, while the likes of Marta and Wende Renard – who also impressed at the summer showpiece – are also included.
|Kosovare Asllani (SWE)||Tacon||Sarah Bouhaddi (FRE)||Lyon|
|Lucy Bronze (ENG)||Lyon||Nilla Fischer (SWE)||Linkopings|
|Pernille Harder (DEN)||VfL Wolfsburg||Tobin Heath (USA)||Portland Thorns|
|Ada Hegerberg (NOR)||Lyon||Amandine Henry (FRA)||Lyon|
|Sofia Jakobsson (SWE)||Tacon||Sam Kerr (AUS)||Chicago R S/Perth Glory|
|Rose Lavelle (USA)||Washington Spirit||Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER)||Lyon|
|Marta (BRA)||Orlando Pride||Lieke Martens (NED)||Barcelona|
|Vivianne Miedema (NED)||Arsenal||Alex Morgan (USA)||Orlando Pride|
|Megan Rapinoe (USA)||Reign FC||Wendie Renard (FRA)||Lyon|
|Sari van Veenendaal (NED)||Atletico Madrid||Ellen White (ENG)||Manchester City|
One of the key names on the list is defending champion Ada Hegerberg, who chose not to play in the World Cup for personal and political reasons. She remains one of the best players on the planet, however, and her exploits for Olympique Lyonnais make her tough to beat here.