Karim Benzema is the leading contender for the UEFA’s Best award which has made history by overlooking Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who have dominated the award
The pair have dominated football’s individual accolades for well over a decade but with both men well into their 30s they have been snubbed by UEFA’s decision makers following difficult seasons for both players, who each took on new challenges.
Messi’s contract situation at Barcelona meant they had to let the Argentine go and he moved to Paris to team up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at PSG, but their star-studded line-up couldn’t deliver Champions League glory. Ronaldo meanwhile made a heroic return to Manchester United but is facing a year in the Europa League after their poor campaign.
Instead Karim Benzema is leading the nominations after a year in which he claimed a LaLiga and Champions League double with Real Madrid, which has made him favourite to land the Ballon d’Or for the first time. For so long he played a support role to Ronaldo, but is now revelling as the team’s main man.
His teammate Thibaut Courtois produced a man of the match performance in Madrid’s final success over Liverpool in Paris and is also among the nominations. As is Kevin De Bruyne, who continued to be the heartbeat of a Manchester City side that retained the Premier League and made the last four in Europe.
Whilst those three players are those on the final shortlist and in the running for the award, UEFA also revealed the full list of 15 players who received votes from coaches and journalists
Liverpool were the team with the most nominations in the top 15 despite falling short domestically and in Europe. Five of their leading lights made the cut with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, now at Bayern Munich, among them.
Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski were also among the big names to be named whilst Frankfurt star Filip Kostić was also listed after his efforts in making the German side Europa League winners. Their coach Oliver Glasner was amongst six names on the initial manager award shortlist.
That has now been cut to three with Carlo Ancelotti vying to win the prize ahead of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Ancelotti won his fourth Champions League as a manager and his second with Real Madrid.