Real Madrid ace Gareth Bale will go head-to-head with former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo as the shortlist for the 2018 Ballon d’Or is announced.
FIFA are releasing the full 30-man shortlist throughout Monday with five stars revealed at one time and Welshman Bale was among the first batch. Sergio Aguero, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavni completed the first five.
Names are released in alphabetical order but Cristiano Ronaldo formed part of the second wave and he was the stand-out name in a group that also contained Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne.
Liverpool’s stellar campaign last season saw further recognition as Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino earned a spot in the second release with Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin completing the first 10 names.
The award has been dominated by Messi and Ronaldo since 2008, each scoring five awards, but with Luka Modric’s impressive season seeing him sweep the recent prizes, he is threatening to break up the duopoly.
The Ballon d’Or is considered the greatest personal accolade a player can achieve and this year’s awards ceremony will take place in Paris on December 3.
Kylian Mbappe, who hit four goals in 13 minutes on Sunday in the rout over Lyon, remains in the hunt for the award after ending his season with a World Cup winners’ medal with France.
Bale is now the main man at Real following Ronaldo’s summer switch to Juventus and he will hope he has done enough for his first Ballon d’Or, even if the competition from the Portuguese remains stronger than ever.
The Welshman is enduring a tough start to the campaign under new boss Julen Lopetegui but made the difference in Kiev when it mattered most against Liverpool to secure a third straight Champions League title in May.
BALLON D’OR SHORTLIST
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Isco (Real Madrid)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea).
From a Premier League perspective no player has made the top three in a decade with Fernando Torres, then of Liverpool, finishing third and Ronaldo, then of Manchester United, winning the award.
But with four big names from the division matching La Liga in the opening 10 selections, there will be a faint hope that the decade of omissions will come to an end.
At the halfway stage of the reveal, Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard were the stand-out names.
Harry Kane became the first Englishman in the shortlist while N’Golo Kante’s impressive showings for club and country saw him earn a spot. Real Madrid midfielder Isco joins team-mates Bale, Benzema and Courtois.