For the first time in 64 years, there will be no Ballon d’Or winner announced this year. It was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, meaning that the most prestigious individual annual accolade in world football will go unclaimed for the first time since its inception in 1956.
However, in the absence of a Ballon d’Or itself, France Football is instead drawing up its all-time XI of football’s greatest ever-players. Indeed, 110 players have been selected as a shortlist — 10 players for each position of their favoured 3-4-3 formation, which they plan to whittle down to the very creme de la creme.
The strict format means that a number of iconic players are already out of the running for inclusion in the team, including some of the biggest names in modern history.
– Eto’o furious at being listed as a right-winger | Valencia fans hire band to follow execs
We felt that we couldn’t let these footballing giants go unheralded, so using France Football’s preferred 3-4-3 formation, here’s our pick of the best of the star players who aren’t among the 110 names on the shortlist.
GK – Oliver Kahn
No goalkeeper has ever won the Ballon d’Or, though a select few have made the podium including Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer.
However, only one keeper has made the final three on two occasions: Bayern stopper Khan, who finished third in the voting in 2001 and then repeated the feat in 2002.
France Football nominees: Gordon Banks, Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Sepp Maier, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Nkono, Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar, Lev Yashin, Dino Zoff
RB – Dani Alves
With full-backs unfairly squeezed out by France Football’s narrow back-three formation, it’s only right that Alves — one of the most decorated footballers around — should pip Javier Zanetti to our right-back berth.
France Football nominees: Giuseppe Bergomi, Cafu, Carlos Alberto, Djalma Santos, Claudio Gentile, Manfred Kaltz, Philipp Lahm, Wim Suurbier, Lilian Thuram, Berti Vogts
CB – Carles Puyol
Another defender who has won all there is to win, Puyol was the lionhearted backbone of the all-conquering Spain and Barcelona teams that dominated the entire sport in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
France Football nominees: Franco Baresi, Franz Beckenbauer, Fabio Cannavaro, Marcel Desailly, Ronald Koeman, Bobby Moore, Daniel Passarella, Matthias Sammer, Gaetano Scirea, Sergio Ramos
LB – Ashley Cole
Another excellent full-back edged out of the equation by the formula, it’s perhaps too regularly overlooked that Cole was one of, if not the best left-back in the world at his very pomp.
France Football nominees: Andreas Brehme, Paul Breitner, Antonio Cabrini, Giacinto Facchetti, Junior, Ruud Krol, Paolo Maldini, Marcelo, Nilton Santos, Roberto Carlos
DM – Claude Makelele
A little strange that the man who both redefined and lent his name to the modern defensive midfield role should miss out entirely, but hopefully Makelele will be content to find himself nestled in the holding role of our select XI.
DM – Luka Modric
The only man not named Lionel or Cristiano to win the Ballon d’Or in the last 12 years, Modric — one of the finest industrial central midfielders of his or any era — is a man who has truly breathed rarified air.
France Football nominees: Jozsef Bozsik, Sergio Busquets, Didi, Paulo Roberto Falcao, Steven Gerrard, Gerson, Pep Guardiola, Josef Masopust, Lothar Matthaus, Johan Neeskens, Andrea Pirlo, Fernando Redondo, Frank Rijkaard, Bernd Schuster, Clarence Seedorf, Luis Suarez, Marco Tardelli, Jean Tigana, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez
AM – Michael Laudrup
There was a strong case for slotting Pavel Nedved into an advanced midfield position, especially as he won himself a Ballon d’Or in 2003, but for all his myriad qualities the golden-haired Czech didn’t quite possess the pure artistry of Laudrup in his regal prime.
AM – Kaka
The last player to win the Ballon d’Or (in 2008) before the titanic age of Messi and Ronaldo swept in, Kaka was an unstoppable force in his first spell at Milan before repeated injuries began to rob him of his lustre.
France Football nominees: Roberto Baggio, Bobby Charlton, Alfredo Di Stefano, Enzo Francescoli, Ruud Gullit, Gheorghe Hagi, Andres Iniesta, Raymond Kopa, Laszlo Kubala, Laszlo Kubala, Diego Maradona, Alessandro Mazzola, Pele, Michel Platini, Ferenc Puskas, Gianni Rivera, Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Socrates, Francesco Totti, Zico, Zinedine Zidane
RF – Robert Lewandowski
The Polish striker looked odds-on to win the 2020 award after his phenomenal scoring feats last season only for a global pandemic to cruelly deny him. Still, we’re fairly sure a 55-goal, treble-winning season with Bayern Munich went some way to providing adequate consolation. Samuel Eto’o wasn’t best pleased to appear in this position, however.
France Football nominees: David Beckham, George Best, Samuel Eto’o, Luis Figo, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Kevin Keegan, Stanley Matthews, Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben
LF – Alessandro Del Piero
Quite possibly the most naturally silken forward we’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, World Cup-winner Del Piero will forever be synonymous with exquisite ball control and deft finishes, as well as the Bianconeri stripes of his beloved Juventus.
France Football nominees: Oleg Blokhin, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dragan Dzajic, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry, Rivaldo, Rivelino, Ronaldinho, Karl-Heinze Rummenigge, Hristo Stoichkov
ST – Raul
One of the most gifted natural strikers to have ever graced the game (he’s still the highest Spanish goal scorer in European leagues with 256 goals), sadly the closest Raul ever got to winning the Ballon d’Or was finishing second behind Michael Owen in 2001, after ending up as top scorer in La Liga and the Champions League with Real Madrid.
France Football nominees: Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruyff, Kenny Dalglish, Eusebio, Sandor Kocsis, Gerd Muller, Romario, Ronaldo Nazario, Marco van Basten, George Weah
Eto’o furious at being listed as a right-winger
Samuel Eto’o, meanwhile, has chastised France Football and claims he has been “disrespected.”
Eto’o is one of the players shortlisted for inclusion in the XI, though the former Inter Milan and Barcelona forward has taken umbrage at the precise role he’s been delegated.
The 39-year-old spoke out on social media after discovering that he’d been listed as a right winger rather than an out-and-out striker, his position of preference.
“Thank you, but I played one or two seasons on the right yet I have a 25-year career as a centre forward. The lack of respect. Whatever!” the Cameroon legend wrote on Twitter.
Given that the No. 9/striker nominees include the likes of Ronaldo, Romario, Gerd Muller, Eusebio and Marco van Basten, we’d perhaps advise Eto’o to take his chances out on the flank.
Valencia fans hire Mariachi band to follow execs
Valencia club executives were followed by a Mariachi band on the streets of the city on Tuesday, courtesy of unhappy fans.
Los Che have won two and lost three of their opening six league games and are 13th in La Liga. With fans unable to attend games so far this season, a group of supporters hired the musicians to make their frustrations known.
As club executive Kim Koh and Joey Lim (no relation to club owner Peter Lim), were having a late morning snack at a cafe, they were surprised by the Mariachis, who later followed them to the club offices.
The ownership of Valencia has been widely criticised in Spain with popular players like Dani Parejo and Rodrigo Moreno allowed to move on this summer, while the club made no signings to strengthen the squad.
Valencia coach Javi Gracia reportedly threatened to resign and the future doesn’t look great for the club. Music soothes a lot of things, but it probably won’t help this time.
Spain correspondent Adriana Garcia contributed to this report
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