Ballon d'Or nominees: Who should win the prestigious prize?

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While Messi, who last won the prize in 2015, enjoyed another year of stellar goalscoring feats, Barcelona's early Champions League exit and Argentina's failure to make the last eight of the World Cup have likely ruled him out of contention.

The Juventus forward, now facing allegations of rape dating back to 2009 that he strenuously denies, has already won the Ballon d'Or five times and is the current holder of the award.

Real Madrid have two players in the Ballon d'Or nominees - Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema while PSG star Edison Cavani become the final contender.

Victory in the Champions League for the third consecutive season and their players among the World Cup finalists in Russian Federation have resulted in the Spanish side being well represented.

Other top players nominated for the award are, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Luka Modric and Harry Kane.

The first five Ballon d'Or nominees have been named and a number of Premier League players feature prominently on the list.

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If Liverpool need to restore any confidence, they need only look back at their last three games against City -all wins. Like Guardiola, Emery was also 100% in September with Arsenal and may provide the toughest competition for the prize.

Specialist magazine France Football, which has awarded the prize since 1956, announced the 30 nominees for the calendar year trophy, among whom a victor will be chosen by a group of respected football journalists from around the world.

Real Madrid midfielder Isco, Liverpool's Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Uruguay's rugged defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid also got the nod.

Modric's global team-mates Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic are also on the shortlist, as are Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

The honour, now separate from FIFA's own Best player of the year award, is bestowed annually by France Football magazine. Kylian Mbappe, the Paris Saint-Germain striker who burst onto the global scene with his performances as France won the World Cup, is the favourite.

Sir Stanley Matthews won the first Ballon d'Or in 1956.

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