Ballon d’Or

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Ronaldo self-proclaims himself “best player in history”

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The never-ending Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi debate over which one is the world’s top player seems to take a different turn on a weekly basis as both goalscorers continue to amaze supporters.

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However, the edge might have to sway in Ronaldo’s favor after the Portuguese international and Real Madrid winger took him his fifth Ballon d’Or trophy on Thursday, equalling Messi’s total.

While the soft-spoken Messi usually sits back and doesn’t field questions regarding the debate, Ronaldo doesn’t display any such shyness.

“I’m the best player in history, in the good moments and the bad ones,” he told France Football. “I respect everyone’s preferences, but I’ve never seen anyone better than me. I have always thought that. No footballer can do the things I can. There’s no player more complete than me.

“I play well with both feet, I’m quick, powerful, good with the head, I score goals, I make assists. There are guys who prefer Neymar or Messi. But I tell you: there’s no-one more complete than me.

“No-one has won as many individual trophies as me. And I’m not speaking just of the Ballon d’Or. That says something, doesn’t it? It’s not just a result of the work I do in the gym, like some people think. It’s the sum of many things. Legends like Floyd Mayweather and LeBron James don’t get to their perfect level by chance. Many factors coincide. To be at the top and to stay there, you have to have more talent than the others.”

Despite Ronaldo’s countless accolades, the Portuguese attacker says that there was a time in his career when he felt a bit down, but he picked himself back up and found his best form again.

“I won the Ballon d’Or before Messi, then he overtook me and won four in a row,” he said. “I’m not going to hide from you that I was sad and angry. I went to the award ceremonies and I never won. At one point, I was even demotivated. I had no desire to go. To be there for the photo didn’t interest me.

“Then, little by little, thanks to those close to me, I told myself that in life there is a beginning and an end. And in football what counts is the finish, not the start. I was patient. And I won four other Ballons d’Or.”

While Ronaldo’s goalscoring totals dipped a bit in 2016/17, the Real attacker’s ability to show for both club and country surely accounted for a big part in his Ballon d’Or triumph.

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The 32-year-old helped Portugal qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while also guiding Los Blancos to a third UEFA Champions League crown in four seasons, to go along with the club’s La Liga title.

Cristiano Ronaldo wins 2017 Ballon d’Or

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For the fifth time and the second-straight year, Cristiano Ronaldo has won soccer’s highest individual honor.

Ronaldo beat out Lionel Messi and Neymar for the 2017 Ballon d’Or, tying him with Messi for the most Ballon d’Or’s in history. Neymar finished third in the voting followed by Gianluigi Buffon, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Kylian Mbappe, N'Golo Kante, Robert Lewandowski, and Harry Kane in that order.

[READ: Top Premier League storylines — Week 16]

The former Manchester United winger had quite the year in 2017, leading Real Madrid to four titles including La Liga and the UEFA Champions League for the second-consecutive season. In 2017, he’s scored 29 goals in 43 matches in all competitions.

Ronaldo accepted his award from midway up the Eiffel Tower in France.

Hope Solo alleges sexual assault by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire once again, but this time it is completely unrelated to corruption charges.

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Hope Solo has spoken out against the exiled soccer figure after the former U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper made a claim stating that she was assaulted by the ex-FIFA president at the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards in January 2013.

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Per her remarks, Solo alleges that she had “Sepp Blatter grab my ass” prior to the two going on stage to present her former USWNT teammate Abby Wambach with the Women’s Player of the Year award.

“I was in shock and completely thrown off,” Solo told the Guardian. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.”

In its report, the Guardian notes that video of the event shows Blatter trailing Solo as the two enter the stage together prior to presenting the award to Wambach. However, there is no direct proof of the allegations outside of Solo’s remarks.

“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass,” she said. “It was at the Ballon d’Or, right before I went on stage. [Sexual harassment] has been normalised.”

Blatter has since responded to the accusations through a spokesman, saying, “This allegation is ridiculous.”

Amid various sexual allegations that have arisen throughout the American community as of late, particularly in Hollywood, Solo took to social media in October with a post regarding the subject.

Ballon d’Or shortlisters revealed: Alexis, Pogba, Bale left off

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France Football has released the names on its 30-man shortlist for the 2017 Ballon D’Or.

[ MORE: Yedlin fills USMNT void ]

The list includes seven Premier League players, one each from Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool.

Before we get to who is on the list, how about who isn’t? Gareth Bale of Real Madrid and Wales is absent, as is Bayern Munich backstop Manuel Neuer and Premier League stars Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba, and Hugo Lloris.

Remember: the list takes into account play with both club and country.

Here’s the entire list. Who is the most notable omission?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund/Gabon)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/France)
Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan/Italy)
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus/Italy)
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain/Uruguay)
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool/Brazil)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium)
David De Gea (Manchester United/Spain)
Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)
Edin Dzeko (Roma/Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Radamel Falcao (Monaco/Colombia)
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/France)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium)
Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich/Germany)
Isco (Real Madrid/Spain)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur/England)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea/France)
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid/Germany)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal)
Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain/France)
Dries Mertens (Napoli/Belgium)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)
Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid/Slovenia)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal)
Luis Suarez (Barcelona/Uruguay)

N’Golo Kante should be a Ballon d’Or finalist

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Over the last two seasons, no player has been more important to his team’s title runs than N'Golo Kante.

That’s especially true considering the soon-to-be 26-year-old midfielder has done it with two teams: 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City and current leaders Chelsea.

[ MORE: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea | 3 things ]

The Blues lead the table by 10 points with 11 matches to play, a figure that could shrink to eight once Manchester City plays its match-in-hand on Wednesday.

Chelsea still plays Man City on April 5, so the title race isn’t completely dusted, but it’s difficult to imagine a relatively healthy Blues side doing anything but lifting the trophy come May.

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The only guy on Chelsea’s side who did that last year was Kante.

In fact, the diminutive destroyer has lost a total of six league matches as a starter dating back to the start of last season. He boasts a record of 40W-13D-6L between the two sides, and that’s without mentioning that France is unbeaten with him in the lineup since he broke into the side last March (They’re only loss was the EURO 2016 final against Portugal, in which he inexplicably didn’t make the XI).

[ MORE: JPW’s take from London Stadium ]

Kante was at it again on Monday, disrupting West Ham attacks like a chessmaster. The Frenchman was several steps ahead of anything the Irons tried, and it’s a marvel to watch his decision-making in darting to the right spot to kickstart Chelsea’s opener. If we had slow-mo, we’d do it, but check out how quickly he figures out where the ball is going before springing the counter attack with an interception and pass.

Eden Hazard‘s work to score the goal understandably gets the gloss here, and Kante’s far from alien to that phenomenon. Kante should’ve been the Player of the Year in the Premier League last season, and that went to then-teammate Riyad Mahrez.

Heck, he probably should’ve been a Ballon d’Or finalist. France teammate Antoine Griezmann joined Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the list. It’s hard to gripe with that trio, excepting they all play in the same league and all have better teammates to pick up the slack in an absence.

Not to mention, with apologies to Caen, he essentially came out of nowhere to do it. Even his fee when sold to Chelsea was understated; Reportedly maxing out at $39 million, Kante was less expensive than Chelsea teammates David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi, as well as at least six other PL buys (Paul Pogba, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Shkrodan Mustafi, Sadio Mane, Granit Xhaka).

Antonio Conte has done a marvelous job directing traffic as Chelsea boss, and this is a club that won the PL title two years ago. Luiz has returned to Stamford Bridge in spectacular fashion and deserves a post of his own, but there’s a good argument to be made that Kante trumps both newcomers as the most influential part of Chelsea’s rebound (though the answer is more likely 1- Conte 2- Kante 3-Luiz. There’s also little as fun as Conte-Kante).

It would be a shame if Kante failed to get a look at the Ballon d’Or in a year without a major European international tournament, but there’s a chance he gets overlooked due to Chelsea’s lack of Champions League play. That’s tough; the little man from Paris is presently the most complete player in the game.