The Ballon d'Or is, without doubt, the most prestigious individual prize in football. It is awarded by French news magazine France Football to honour the best male and female footballers every year. On Friday night, they released a 30-man shortlist for this year's Ballon d'Or.
Quite a few surprise inclusions in the Ballon d'Or 30-man shortlist
While the superstars of the game who have had excellent campaigns were predictably named on the shortlist, there were a few key exclusions. There are also a few players who, despite having had decent campaigns, perhaps haven't done enough to warrant a place on the 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist.
Making the Ballon d'Or shortlist is an achievement in itself and some top stars are unfortunate to have missed out. Without further ado, let's take a look at six players who are lucky to have made the 30-man shortlist.
#5 Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden had a breakout season of sorts last term. He was excellent for the Premier League champions and has now established himself as a vital cog in Pep Guardiola's setup.
Foden scored 16 goals and provided 10 assists in 50 appearances across all competitions. While his contributions obviously go beyond those numbers, it's hard to argue that Foden deserved a place on the list ahead of, say, Thomas Muller.
The 21-year-old did win the Premier League and the League Cup with Manchester City. However, both those triumphs came as a result of concerted team efforts. Foden also had a very forgettable outing at Euro 2020, scoring no goals and providing no assists in three appearances in the continental competition.
While the younger will undoubtedly go on to be a mainstay in the Ballon d'Or race in the years to come, he is perhaps a bit fortunate to have made the shortlist this time.
#4 Pedri (Barcelona)
Pedri is just 18 years of age and we have already seen flashes of genius from him. He has been likened to legends like Andres Iniesta and Xavi and that itself speaks volumes of Pedri's ability on the ball.
The youngster was named Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 in the summer for his heroics in the competition for the Spanish national team. The 2020-21 season has been a defining one for the youngster. He garnered the trust of his manager Ronald Koeman and became a fixture in Barcelona's starting lineup.
However, while it was a campaign where he announced his arrival, there are doubts regarding whether he was good enough to be named on the Ballon d'Or shortlist. As a central midfielder, he is not expected to contribute lavishly in the goalscoring department. But even then, his numbers don't make for great reading.
He scored just four goals and provided six assists in 52 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona in the 2020-21 season. While he did play a crucial role for Spain in their run to the finals of the Olympics as well, he just hasn't done enough to have a place on the Ballon d'Or 30-man shortlist.