NAN: Modric, Ronaldo, Salah battle for Ballon d’Or

Luka Modric: In the race with Ronaldo, Salah for Ballon d’Or

FIFA best player of the year Luka Modric remains on track for a third major award after he was named Monday among 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or alongside the likes of ex-Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

Modric, a World Cup runner-up with Croatia, beat Juventus’ Ronaldo and Salah to win the FIFA prize last month after Messi was surprisingly left off the final three-man list. Modric also won the UEFA Best Player award.

Ronaldo, currently facing allegations of rape dating back to 2009 that he strenuously denies, has already won the Ballon d’Or five times and is the current holder of the award. Messi has also won the award on five occasions.

FIFA split from the Ballon d’Or in 2016 to launch its own set of awards. The winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or organised by France Football magazine will be announced on December 3.

Real Madrid and Wales forward Gareth Bale and Manchester City’s Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne also featured among a list of familiar names.

Bale, who scored two goals in Real’s triumph in the final of the Champions League against Liverpool including a spectacular overhead kick, is joined by club teammates Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane, Isco, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos.

De Bruyne was nominated for helping City win the Premier League and Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Antoine Griezmann, a World Cup winner with France and Europa League champion at Atletico Madrid, is nominated alongside international teammates, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.

Eden Hazard gives Chelsea another player in the running after starring alongside De Bruyne at the World Cup, with England’s Golden Boot winner Harry Kane also included.

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and PSG’s Neymar are nominated as are two other prolific South American strikers: Uruguayans Edinson Cavani of PSG and Luis Suarez of Barcelona.

Liverpool’s Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino and Uruguay’s rugged defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid also got the nod.

Four goalkeepers are also among the 30 — Thibaut Courtois of Belgium and Real Madrid, Liverpool and Brazil stopper Alisson Becker, Tottenham’s France World Cup winner Hugo Lloris and Atletico’s Jan Oblak.

Also making the cut are Juve’s Mario Mandzukic and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, while Barcelona are also represented by Croat defender Ivan Rakitic.

For the first time, a Ballon d’Or for women players will be awarded this year, with Champions League winners Lyon accounting for seven of the 15 nominees.

France internationals Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Wendie Renard are joined on the list by Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan, England’s Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Japan defender Saki Kumagai.

Brazil’s Marta, crowned best women’s player for a record sixth time at last month’s FIFA awards, is also in contention after her role in winning the Copa America.

Other nominees are Pernille Harder, Lindsey Horan, Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Lieke Martens, Megan Rapinoe and Christine Sinclair.

In another first, the best under-21 player will receive the Kopa Trophy. Kylian Mbappe, the Paris Saint-Germain striker who burst onto the global scene with his performances as France won the World Cup, is the favourite.

The Ballon d’Or, which was first won by Englishman Stanley Matthews in 1956, is decided by a ballot of journalists from around the world.