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Ballon d’Or: Messi dropped for first time as Benzema leads contenders

Lionel Messi has been left off the 30-man list of Ballon d’Or nominees for the first time since 2005 after the contenders were announced by France Football on Friday.

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema leads the nominees as he bids to win the first Ballon d’Or award of his career. Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland were also included in the list of this year’s nominees.

There was no place, either, for Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar.

Three United States women’s national team players feature among the 20 nominees for the Women’s Ballon d’Or — Catarina Macario, Alex Morgan and Trinity Rodman.

Last year’s winner Alexia Putellas is one of five Barcelona players on the list despite suffering a serious knee injury on the eve of this summer’s European Championships, while there are spots for three players who helped England to Euros glory, Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead.

The big surprise, though, came in the men’s nominees when Messi’s run of 15 consecutive nominations, featuring seven wins, comes to an end after a disappointing first season at PSG following his shock move from Barcelona last year. The 35-year-old scored just 11 goals in all competitions last season.

France international Benzema has enjoyed a sensational year after playing an influential role in helping Madrid win the LaLiga and Champions League double last season.

The 34-year-old finished the 2021-22 campaign as LaLiga top scorer with 27 goals while he scored in every Champions League knockout round, and also missed out on scoring in the final after seeing a goal disallowed.

He also picked up silverware on the international stage after helping France clinch the UEFA Nations League in October with a goal in the 2-1 victory over Spain.

The striker is the favourite to pick up the Ballon d’Or after the award decided to undergo radical changes this year.

Messi’s 2021 success over Lewandowski was a controversial pick in the eyes of the football world and France Football later announced that the award period will fall in line with the main European season rather than entire calendar year.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has also been nominated for the award after a stellar campaign. The forward shared the Premier League Golden Boot with fellow Ballon d’Or nominee Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min and was named the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year. He also took the top honour from the Football Writers’ Association.

The list of women’s nominees also features five players who helped Lyon defeat Barcelona to win the Champions League last season. As well as Macario, there is recognition for Selma Bacha, Christine Endler, Aga Hegerberg and Wendie Renard.

Germany leads the way with three nominees for the Kopa Trophy, which celebrates the best men’s players under the age of 21. Borussia Dortmund’s Karim Adeyemi, Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala and Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz all make the list, as do England dup Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka as well as Real Madrid’s Champions League winner Eduardo Camavinga and Barcelona wonderkid Gavi.

Real Madrid’s Champions League final hero Thibaut Courtois leads the nominees for the Yachine Trophy given to the best goalkeeper.

Ballon d’Or nominees
Trent Alexander-Arnold
Karim Benzema
Joao Cancelo
Casemiro
Thibaut Courtois
Cristiano Ronaldo
Kevin De Bruyne
Luis Diaz
Fabinho
Phil Foden
Erling Haaland
Sebastian Haller
Harry Kane
Joshua Kimmich
Rafael Leao
Robert Lewandowski
Riyad Mahrez
Mike Maignan
Sadio Mane
Kylian Mbappe
Luka Modric
Christopher Nkunku
Darwin Nunez
Antonio Rudiger
Mohamed Salah
Bernardo Silva
Son Heung-min
Virgil van Dijk
Vinicius Jr.
Dusan Vlahovic

Ballon d’Or Feminin nominees
Selma Bacha
Aitana Bonmati
Millie Bright
Lucy Bronze
Kadidiatou Diani
Christine Endler
Ada Hegerberg
Marie-Antoinette Katoto
Sam Kerr
Catarina Macario
Beth Mead
Vivianne Miedema
Alex Morgan
Lena Oberdorf
Asisat Oshoala
Alexandra Popp
Alexia Putellas
Wendie Renard
Trinity Rodman
Fridolina Rolfo

Kopa Trophy nominees
Karim Adeyemi
Jude Bellingham
Eduardo Camavinga
Gavi
Ryan Gravenberch
Nuno Mendes
Jamal Musiala
Josko Gvardiol
Bukayo Saka
Florian Wirtz

Yachine Trophy nominees
Yassine Bounou
Alisson Becker
Thibaut Courtois
Ederson
Mika Maignan
Edouard Mendy
Manuel Neuer
Jan Oblak
Kevin Trapp
Hugo Lloris

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