FIFA has released the shortlist for the Best Men’s Player of the Year award, and it’s missing the most expensive player in the world.
I’ve spent the past few days asking the world’s best poker players what they wanted to be when they were younger. One of them wanted to be a taxi driver, but most wanted to be an athlete of some nature, with professional footballer topping the list.
My Whatsapp message reads:
Are you enjoying yourself?
I am grateful I am here. I am not sure ‘enjoying it’ is the right word. You know me, I am always in the zone. I don’t think too much about enjoying stuff.
It was a text message worth reflection. I’m 42. A lot of houseplants have died during that time. Between five and ten dogs, two cats, and Snippy the crayfish.
The time passes as quickly as a long lie-in.
Life becomes more anorexic, and I feel like my time is being squeezed like toothpaste.
Have I ever enjoyed myself?
Poker brought too much pain.
I used to enjoy playing football.
I loved playing football.
When I sit in the chair that kisses the arses of Ben Lamb, Nick Schulman and Stephen Chidwick, and someone asks me that question, I will reply.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional footballer.
For these ten people, the dream came true.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
2. Harry Kane (Spurs)
3. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
4. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
5. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain)
6. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
9. Mo Salah (Liverpool)
10. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
In 2016, after a decade-long love affair, FIFA and France Football decided to blow out the candles, turn on the lights and file for divorce. The Ballon d’Or would return to its former majesty, and FIFA had some thinking to do.
The result was the creation of the FIFA Awards show, with the Ballon d’Or equivalent being the FIFA Men’s Player Award.
Those ten players comprise the 2018 shortlist.
Four of the players come from the Premiership, one from Ligue 1 in France, and five from Spain (Ronaldo plays for Juventus, but this award covers his success at Real Madrid. The European Champions have the most players on the shortlist with three.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia played a prominent role in the final picks with three Frenchman and a Croat in the lineup, including the World Cup’s Young Player of the Tournament, Kylian Mbappe, and the Player of the Tournament, Luka Modric. The Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane, also made the cut.
The one name that’s inconspicuous by its absence is Neymar. The most expensive player in the world had a fair to middling World Cup, overshadowed by play-acting, but his snub was more likely to do with the injury that kept him out of the last three months of the season. The Paris St-German star finished third last year.
A select group of FIFA legends created the short-list including Ronaldo Nazario, Frank Lampard and Fabio Capello. The next stage of the process is for the football community, journalists, national team coaches, and national team captains to vote for the winner.
Voting begins on 24 July and ends 10 August.
The winner emerges from a golden envelope during the Best FIFA Football Awards show in London on 24 September.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the favourite to win the award for the third year on the spin.
Here are the odds:
Cristiano Ronaldo 1/4
Luka Modric 4/1
Kylian Mbappe 9/1
Everyone else (no hope)