Ronaldo-Messi dominance in Best FIFA Players faces huge challenge

Paris: The decade-long dominance of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi is set to face tough challenges from other contenders like French sensational teenager Kylian Mbappe and Croatia’s key figure Luka Modric as 10 nominees for the Best FIFA Men’s Player were unveiled on Tuesday.

Ronaldo and Messi combined to win all the Best Player awards in the past decade since 2008, either when it was named FIFA Ballon d’Or due to merger of the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d’Or, or the Best FIFA Men’s Player after 2016, reports Xinhua news agency.

As the list was selected by a panel of FIFA Legends for their achievements during the period July 3, 2017 to July 15, 2018 inclusive, the duo seemed to lose something significant for their national team’s under-par performance at the FIFA World Cup, the biggest tournament of the year, as both exited from the round of 16 in Russia.

The World Cup was obviously a stage to prove themselves for Mbappe and Modric, with the former winning the FIFA Young Player Award and the latter bagging the Golden Ball Award of the tournament.

World champions France also have forward Antoine Griezmann and central defender Raphael Varane in the list. Other contenders included World Cup Golden Boot Award winner Harry Kane, Belgian attacking midfield duo of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, and Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah, who finished a glittering season with English Premier League (EPL) side Liverpool.

France’s coach Didier Deschamps and his fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane, who steered Real Madrid to their third straight UEFA Champions League title last season, were nominated for the Best FIFA Men’s Coach.

Apart from Deschamps, head coaches of other World Cup semi-finalists, Zlatko Dalic (Croatia), Roberto Martinez (Belgium) and Gareth Southgate (England), were also among the 11 nominees. The other national team’s coach was Russia’s Stanislav Cherchesov after the World Cup hosts reached the quarter-finals.

The other five candidates for the award were Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus), Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Juergen Klopp (Liverpool), Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid) and Ernesto Valverde (Barcelona).

Nominees for Best FIFA Women’s Coach and Player were also announced on Tuesday.

Winners of the four categories will be chosen by a process involving stakeholders from across the world of football, including players, coaches, fans and media, with public voting to close on August 10.

FIFA will announce the final lists of the three nominees for each of the four categories, as well as for the FIFA Puskas Award, the FIFA Fan Award and the Best FIFA Goalkeeper award, at the start of September.

The winner will be announced at the Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony in London on September 24.