The debate began almost immediately after France Football revealed their 30 picks for the 2018 Ballon d’Or. It wasn’t about who would win it, but why some were shut out completely.
The longlist is dominated by players who excelled at the World Cup, including six from France’s victorious side and three from runners-up Croatia. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who have won each of the past 10 awards – also retained their places.
But lost in the hype and World Cup hysteria are a few international stars who deserve recognition of their own.
Here are six of the biggest snubs from Monday’s announcement:
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Lewandowski amassed 41 goals in 48 appearances last season while winning a third career scoring crown in the Bundesliga. Those are sensational numbers that cannot be so easily overlooked. Karim Benzema earned Ballon d’Or consideration despite scoring less than half of Lewandowski’s total.
Although he went goalless at the World Cup, the Polish striker did more than enough with his club to merit a nomination.
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Coutinho made an instant impact upon his arrival in Barcelona, registering eight goals and five assists to help the Blaugrana win La Liga. He showed in quick order that he has the requisite skill, vision, and finesse to be Andres Iniesta’s heir.
Coutinho was also Brazil’s best player in Russia, handling more of the playmaking responsibilities in a deeper midfield role. Many considered the 26-year-old to be more influential at the World Cup than international teammate Neymar – claims which were corroborated by goals against group-stage opponents Costa Rica and Switzerland.
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Kroos continued to get the cold shoulder from media members despite a growing admiration for midfielders. Though not the most spectacular player, Kroos kept Real Madrid’s midfield running smoothly as they surged to a third consecutive Champions League title. He also finished the season as the only player in the top five European leagues with a greater passing percentage than club teammate Luka Modric.
His reputation took a hit when Germany exited the World Cup, but Kroos was actually one of the better performers in his country’s otherwise doomed campaign. His last-gasp free-kick against Sweden was a further demonstration of his class.
David De Gea (Manchester United)
De Gea was denied a nomination despite being one of the Premier League’s most reliable goalkeepers. He’s certainly a more acrobatic shot-stopper than counterparts Hugo Lloris or Thibaut Courtois, yet they made the longlist ahead of the Spaniard.
His performances during the World Cup certainly weren’t indicative of his actual quality – he managed just three saves throughout the tournament – but his status at Manchester United is regal. He topped all Premier League goalkeepers with 18 clean sheets last season and made the highlight reels with a series of marvelous reaction stops.
Mauro Icardi (Inter)
Whether it’s a call-up to Argentina or individual honors, Mauro Icardi never gets the respect he deserves. He’s proven over the years that he’s an elite striker, finishing as Serie A’s top scorer for a second time with 29 goals in 34 league appearances last season. His 28.7 conversion rate was better than both Harry Kane and Lionel Messi. He just knows how to take his chances.
The problem is that he’s played much of his career outside the Champions League. This season is his first taste of Europe’s premier club competition, and he announced himself with a rare goal from outside the area in a 2-1 comeback win over Tottenham in September.
David Silva (Manchester City)
It’s hard to imagine Manchester City’s midfield without David Silva roaming around it. He’s the lifeblood of this new-generation City side and remains a protagonist at 32 years old. He somehow managed to thrive in the trivialities of football despite complications with his son’s birth and met Pep Guardiola’s needs by reverting to a deep-lying midfield role. He often gets secondary assists and fuels many of City’s drives through the middle of the park. There’s a little bit of bite and snarl to his game as well. Few midfielders combine it all like the Spaniard.