Argentina leads Ballon d’Or nominees list with four candidates

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Lionel Messi is in the running for the award given to the best football player of the past season in what would be a record-setting eight win

Lionel Messi, Emiliano Dibu Martínez, Lautaro Martínez and Julián Álvarez are among the candidates to win the Ballon d’Or, the award crowning the best player of the past season. The winner of the most storied and prestigious prize in world football, which is given by magazine France Football, will be announced on October 30.

In total, the publication announced 30 candidates to win the award. Argentina is tied with France (Benzema, Kolo Muani, Griezmann and Mbappé) as the country with the most nominations, while England has three (Saka, Bellingham and Kane).

Lionel Messi is expected to be in contention for the award once the list is shortened to the three finalists. Although he struggled to make an impact with Paris Saint Germain, the 36-year-old captained his country to World Cup glory in Qatar 2022 and was chosen the best player of the tournament. 

It would be a record-setting eight Ballon d’Or win for Messi, who recently admitted that after winning the World Cup, he doesn’t think much about individual awards.

His main competitor is likely to be Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland. The 23-year-old scored 58 goals in 59 games with the English side on route to their treble-winning season.

Julián Álvarez, who last season competed for a spot in Manchester City with the Norwegian, was also instrumental in Argentina’s Qatar 2022 win. The former River Plate star became the youngest player to score a brace (two goals) in a World Cup semi finals since Pelé in 1958, and was also an important player for the Citizens.

The man he replaced in Lionel Scaloni’s starting lineup, Lautaro Martínez, was also nominated. El Toro, as the former Racing Club striker is known, struggled to find his best form in Qatar but still led his club, Italian giant Inter Milan, to the UEFA Champions League final where they lost against Álvarez and Haaland’s team.

Goalkeeper Dibu Martínez was Argentina’s second most important player in the World Cup. His performances in penalty shootouts, first against The Netherlands in the quarterfinals (where he saved two shots) and then in the final against France (where he saved one and played mind games to force a miss) were key in the Albiceleste’s win. 

He is also lauded for his save against Kolo Muani in the 123rd minute of the game against France, which would’ve spelled the end for Argentina and has been called “the most important save in World Cup history.”

Martínez has also been nominated to the Yashin Trophy, which is also awarded by France Football to the best performing goalkeeper in the same Ballon d’Or gala.

It is worth noting that Messi is so far the only Argentine to have won the prize. It was first awarded in 1956, and until 1995 only European players were eligible. That means that Argentine-born Alfredo Di Stéfano, who won it in 1957 and ‘59, and Omar Sívori, who won it in 1961, were only able to do so because they had previously obtained Spanish and Italian citizenship respectively.

Source: Buenosaires Herald