Pretenders to the throne

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have ten Ballon d'Ors between them.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have ten Ballon d'Ors between them. / AFP
  • Luka Modrić, Raphaël Varane and Kylian Mbappé have emerged as frontrunners for the Ballon d'Or, but it's much too early to write off Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Pardon my French, but I think I've mistranslated the meaning of 'Ballon d'Or'. I always thought it meant 'Golden Ball', hence it was awarded to the footballer whose balls shone the most golden over the past 12 months?

It has been reported that the shortlist is down to three. The candidates appear to be Luka Modrić, Raphaël Varane and Kylian Mbappé.

So does this mean the new translation is 'footballer who played the best in a national team that shone at the World Cup'? With an aside 'preferably French'?

If so, there's little argument with the shortlist. All three had a great summer in Russia and you can add Antione Griezmann to the list.

I assumed the award was for the best footballer on Planet Football for the calendar year? For the past ten years that accolade has been shared by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

We all want to see new superstars shine but in truth there's still nobody to touch the pair of them for individual brilliance. They have been, and still are, a class apart from the rest of football's civilisation.

The hipster types like to throw statistics at you. Ronaldo almost singlehandedly took Real Madrid to the Champions League final with 13 goals in 13 games; if you want to be pedantic six in seven in the year 2018.

Yeah but what did he do in the league? This calendar year he scored 22 goals in 13 Liga games. At Juventus he's now scored nine goals in 15 appearances plus six assists.

Messi, meanwhile, inspired Barcelona to the Liga and Copa double. From January onwards he weighed in with 19 Liga goals and in the Copa he scored four, including in the final.

This season he's already recorded 14 goals and six assists in 13 games.

Believe me I want the next superstar to emerge and having witnessed a number of performances from Mbappé I think he has the potential to achieve greatness. He does have a World Cup winner's medal as a teenager after all. He was part of an incredible team. That's the key though; it was a team effort. It was a coming together of talent.

Modrić made more of an individual impression on Croatia reaching the World Cup Final and he was a major player in Real Madrid's Champions League success. I thought he had a vintage season and was the most influential individual... after Cristiano Ronaldo.

Modrić did take the FIFA award in the summer. As it was on the back of the FIFA World Cup, that was fair enough. But taking the most esteemed individual prize would be the most surprising since Michael Owen in 2001.

At last, though, France Football who run the Ballon D'or have the chance to honour a Frenchman for the first time since Zinedine Zidane in 1998.

I'd agree that Mbappé deserves the Trophée Kopa (presented to the best performing player under the age of 21), but personally I can't see beyond Ronaldo and Messi.

If they want to make it interesting then make them fight it out over a game of head tennis or keepy uppies.