Ballon d’Or changes rules; Guessing the new 30-man shortlist

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FIFA’s six-year run as cooperating partner of the Ballon d’Or Award is over, and France Football is changing some things in how they handle the honor of naming the world’s top footballer.

This year, there will only be a 30-man shortlist before the awards, no narrowing of the field to three.

In the past, the shortlist was 23 players, and a three-man list was presented before the ceremony.

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For five of the six years, this list was Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and another guy. Since 2007, either Ronaldo or Messi has been in the Top Three. Messi has five awards, Ronaldo three.

The time period used for voters is Nov. 22, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016, and encapsulates the club season as well as EURO 2016, the Olympics, and Copa America Centenario. Voting runs from late October through Nov. 20, and Cristiano Ronaldo the winner will be given his award on Jan. 9.

Here a quick guess at the 30-man shortlist. These players are not listed in any PST-assigned order.

First, let’s expect that of the 23 men from last year’s shortlist, most will return. We’ll guess that Yaya Toure and Karim Benzema don’t make the cut.

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Arjen Robben and Ivan Rakitic could see their names drop, as they finished 22 and 23.

Returnees

  1. Lionel Messi
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo
  3. ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 11: FIFA Ballon d'Or nominees Neymar Jr of Brazil and FC Barcelona (L), Lionel Messi of Argentina and FC Barcelona (C) and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Real Madrid (R) attend a press conference prior to the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015 at the Kongresshaus on January 11, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
    (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

    Neymar

  4. Luis Suarez
  5. Robert Lewandowski
  6. Thomas Mueller
  7. Manuel Neuer
  8. Alexis Sanchez
  9. Andres Iniesta
  10. Sergio Aguero
  11. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  12. Javier Mascherano
  13. Paul Pogba
  14. Gareth Bale
  15. Arturo Vidal
  16. Kevin De Bruyne
  17. James Rodriguez
  18. Toni Kroos
  19. Arjen Robben
  20. Ivan Rakitic

New names

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

That leaves 10 new spots (Sorry, Arjen and Ivan). There are some no doubters here, and I’ll plug in some explanation when necessary.

21. Pepe — EURO and Champions League double
22. Antoine Griezmann
23. Gonzalo Higuain
24. Dimitri Payet
25. Riyad Mahrez
26. Mesut Ozil
27. Olivier Giroud — 5 UCL goals, EURO bronze boot, 16 PL goals

Wild cards

We’re pegging Jamie Vardy and Leicester’s dream season to join Harry Kane for two of the final slots, and Sergio Ramos to edge Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci on the strength of another UCL title, and Real teammate Marcelo on the virtues of EURO success versus Copa America failure.

28. Jamie Vardy
29. Harry Kane
30. Sergio Ramos
Luka Modric
Philippe Coutinho
Marcelo
Leonardo Bonucci

Will just miss

We’re sure we are missing a ton, but here are the next names.

Rui Patricio — EURO team of tournament
Jerome Boateng
Angel Di Maria
Ivan Perisic
N'Golo Kante
Marek Hamsik
Eduardo Vargas — Leading scorer at Copa America
Alvaro Morata
Willian — 5 UCL goals
Javier Hernandez — 5 UCL goals, 17 Bundesliga, two for Mexico
Clint Dempsey — Yes, an MLS player; Three goals at Copa America
Raphiel Guerriero — EURO team of tournament
Nicolas Otamendi — Copa team of tournament
Ragnar Sigurdsson