The Ballon d'Or Shortlist

Kaka (AC Milan), Brazil "Maybe his best triumph of 2008 is too far from December, coming right at the turn of the year. But remember that Kakà is a World Club Champion. When Milan won the global tournament in Yokohama it was because Kakà, still young but every inch a leader, was at the top of his game. AC Milan's poor season can't take away from that!" Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Portugal "Forty-two goals by the end of the season. A Premier League winner's medal. A Champions League winner's medal. A few good performances at Euro 2008 would have done his cause no harm, but instead he lost focus. Whether or not that will force the voting panel to make admiring glances remains to be seen..." "I am not a fan. He is the most talented, but I do not like his spirit and his way of playing. Yet for me, with his tremendous season and his 42 goals he nonetheless must win the Ballon d'Or." Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC), England "Stevie is likely the best English player in the world today, but it remains a puzzle why he can't mesh well with Lampard in the national team midfield. With England failing to reach Euro 2008 he doesn't have a chance." Fernando Torres (Liverpool FC), Spain "Had an absolutely unbelievable first season in England on a personal level, but had no silverware to show for it with Liverpool. His Spanish fortunes were the opposite, as despite scoring in the final, he was not one of Spain's star players." Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Spain "As talented as young Jedi Knight Fabregas is, Obi Wan Wenger is expecting too much if he believes that he alone can save Arsenal from the evil empire of big-spending clubs. Another barren, trophyless season for Arsenal means that the newly-appointed captain won't win the Golden Ball - if he harbours ambitions to do so in the future he may have to leave the Emirates." Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Spain "Arguably only the second best goalkeeper of this generation, but nevertheless a phenomenon, who did as much in a year as can be asked of any shot-stopper. Is likely to lose out due to the award's bias towards attacking players." Samuel Eto'o (FC Barcelona), Cameroon "Spent much of the domestic season out with injury but still boasted an impressive scoring record and was also pivotal in getting Cameroon to the final of the African Cup of Nations." Xavi (Barcelona), Spain "This 'little big man' has been a key figure for both Barcelona and Spanish international for many years and is still growing as a footballer. Even more surprisingly, it seems that he has not reached his best yet. That means the prize isn't going to be his - yet." David Villa (Valencia CF), Spain "Arguably the best striker in the world at this moment in time, but Valencia's embarrassing 2007-08 season all but rules him out of contention for the award." "His quiet, effective approach costs him. He will never be showy enough, either on the pitch or off, to really capture the limelight. As such it's a toss-up as to whether or not he'll win even in a year that he does deserve it - which isn't this one, anyway." Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), Netherlands "He wasn't as spectacular as in his first season at the Bernabeu, but Ruud went on scoring in 2007/2008 to push Real Madrid to a second consecutive title. Van The Man is still a predator in the area and after his serious injury (nine months out) the Merengues are desperately searching for someone who can score as much as him. Good luck with that. Anyway, he's a worthy contender but he won't win the title." Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Argentina "While the Argentine is a phenomenal player, there was simply not enough end product to his game for him to contend with some of the other names on this list. As of November he started to show it - a 2009 winner-in-waiting?" Frank Lampard (Chelsea), England "A consistent, attack-minded midfielder with great positional sense and an eye for goal. The names of Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard would have been obvious nominations for Moscow goal-scorers in the Champions League, and they didn't disappoint. Has even had the audacity to up his game even further this season." Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan), Sweden "He plays like a dancer with an incredible sense of energy. Zlatan is a kind of player every manager wants: he looks good either as a striker or playing a withdrawn role far from the opponents' goal. He has a deadly shot with either his left or his right foot, and he's a real character who seems to get on with his teammates. After every goal scored he says to them: "Bravo, Bravo!". A real leader, but that might not be enough..." Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Russia "Arshavin's a sparkplug who faces a problem, as a 'tweener (in-between a true forward and a midfielder), he doesn't fit the standard offensive schemes of many teams. Thus, he's not worth as much to any other team as he is to Zenit, where the popular player is king. But has he been able to turn it on in the Champions League? The jury is well and truly out." Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Netherlands "I am a little bit upset by the presence of Van der Sar in this list. Surely he is only there because he plays for Manchester United. Buffon and Casillas are the only goalkeepers who have their place in this lineup, in my mind. Anyway, he has had great career, so maybe it is a just reward." Marcos Senna (Villarreal), Spain "He seized a chance to play a key role for Spanish international in Euro 2008 after a superb season with Villarreal. His performances and contributions outweighed the absence of David Albelda. But was it enough for the Ballon d'Or?" Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal), Togo "Surely a great player. His main success is becoming a killer in front of goal. When he played in France, he often had six or seven shots per match but rarely he found the back of the net. Wenger has done a good job - nobody in France thought he could become one of the best goalscorers in England, yet he has." Sergio Agüero (Atletico Madrid), Argentina 'El Kun' is fearless, not merely for his play during games, but also for becoming romantically involved with the daughter of Argentina's icon and new national team coach, Diego Maradona. That's cojones, right there. Still, it's too early for him - and will he ever win it with Atletico?" Karim Benzema (Lyon), France "An outstanding talent and more than likely to be a future winner of the award, but did not have the Euro 2008 he would have liked for many reasons out of his control." Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), France "An incredible player who played in French third division just one year before joining Marseille! He's very quick, and he is the boss of Bayern Munich and the star of the team. What's more, he's also the man who drives the French national team, and he's in the spirit of the French people. An incredible player, who could be a great pretender next year - but not this time."


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