Who will win the Ballon d'Or? This year's award explained
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 07/12/17 7:11pm
On December 7, one of the most prestigious prizes in football will be awarded as the 2017 winner of the Ballon d’Or is announced.
First given to Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956, some of the greatest players to have played the game have claimed it in the past including Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Eusebio and Alfredo di Stefano.
More recently, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the award, with Kaka the last man other than them to win it back in 2007.
So how does the award work? And who is expected to win this year's version? Skysports.com's Andrew Dickson takes a look…
A total of 30 players are in contention to win the 2017 Ballon d'Or, a prize presented by the weekly football magazine France Football to the player it deems to be the best in the world over the calendar year. First created by former France full-back Gabriel Hanot during his later career as a journalist, it was originally only open to European players at European clubs and that's why Pele doesn't feature among past winners. Indeed, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the award last year, France Football published a re-evaluation of the award prior to 1995 and found the Brazilian would have claimed it seven times - more than any player has so far managed to do.
Often referred to as the European Footballer of the Year award, the Ballon d'Or was the only honour of its kind until 1991. In the same year, FIFA introduced their World Player of the Year prize and in 1995 the Ballon d'Or's rules were changed in order to allow anyone to win it provided they played in Europe. In 2007 it became a world award and the two prizes ran side by side for 15 years up to 2010, when a merger with FIFA saw the prize known as the FIFA Ballon d'Or until 2015, with FIFA provided an eight-figure sum towards funding the award.
Didn't Cristiano Ronaldo just win the Ballon d'Or?
No, he won FIFA's 'The Best' award, presented for the first time last year then again last month in London. The Best was created after FIFA's partnership with France Football ended and FIFA president Gianni Infantino reverted to the old system. The new award's winner is intended to come from a shortlist of 23 players rather than 30, although there were 24 nominees on this year's list after a tie for 23rd.
Whereas the Ballon d'Or is now picked solely by a panel of journalists, the voting process for The Best is much more complicated. Half of the decision is based on the votes of national team coaches and captains while the other half is split between a public ballot conducted online and submissions from more than 200 media representatives.
So who is in the running?
Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of the same names on both lists - 17 of them, in fact. Three Premier League players - Chelsea pair Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante, along with Tottenham striker Harry Kane - appear on both. Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea are also on the list having not been shortlisted for The Best, whereas Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic were named then but not now.
The expectation is likely to be that the usual contenders will be among the front runners. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been the top two in each of the last six Ballon d'Ors and have claimed the prize nine times between them. There are not many players who have had the kind of year which would suggest their monopoly will not continue, although the likes of Kane might wish to claim differently. PSG's Neymar could also be an outside bet.
Is a different winner feasible?
Absolutely. Just because Ronaldo won The Best, it should not be taken as an indication he will collect the Ballon d'Or as well and the two prizes and wholly independent from each other. Indeed, several newspapers printed a leaked photograph earlier this month which appeared to show Messi on the front cover of the December issue of France Football being proclaimed as the winner.
Were Messi to win his sixth Ballon d'Or - compared with Ronaldo's four - it would be by no means the first time there have been different winners of individual world footballer awards in the same year. The last time that happened was in 2004, with Andriy Shevchenko claiming the Ballon d'Or and Ronaldinho taking the FIFA equivalent.
How will we hear who has won?
In very French fashion, the identity of the 62nd Ballon d'Or winner will be broadcast on a dedicated television programme presented by former Tottenham and Newcastle winger David Ginola. Shown at 6.45pm UK time on December 7 - the day before the December edition of France Football is available to buy - it will be broadcast on L'Equipe.