Published On: Mon, Oct 23rd, 2017

5 players primed to spoil Ronaldo- Messi reign for best player award

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When Neymar awaited the winner of the 2017 Best FIFA Men’s Player award on the London Palladium stage on Monday, did he really think he had a chance?

Since AC Milan‘s Kaka collected the player of the year hardware in 2007, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shared the distinction of being named the world’s best with five gongs apiece.

But with both players aged 30 or above, could their monopoly be challenged next year? Here are the current frontrunners to succeed the decorated pair:

Neymar


The strong favourite.

Neymar’s world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was engineered to give him a better chance of winning individual honours. At Barcelona he operated in the shadow of Messi and, to a lesser extent, Luis Suarez, and when you’re not the leading light at your club you’re not going to be named the best player on the globe.

He’s phenomenally talented and already proved he can single-handedly drag his team over the line when he inspired Brazil to glory at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The 25-year-old will have some big-name sidekicks in the French capital to help him – Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani are his current strike partners – and he’s started strongly in Ligue 1 with seven goals and five assists over eight appearances.

Kevin De Bruyne


The last time there was Premier League representation in the team of the year was in 2014, when Paris Saint-Germain’s David Luiz was selected shortly after leaving Chelsea, and Manchester United new boy Angel Di Maria was picked after a sterling season with Real Madrid.

Judging from performances early on in the 2017-18 campaign, Kevin De Bruyne is ready to introduce himself to the upper reaches of the world’s game.

The perfect weight and forensic accuracy of his passes has helped Manchester City net an incredible 32 goals over nine Premier League matches, and his knack of pressing out of possession and finding space when a teammate has the ball is especially pleasing for boss Pep Guardiola.

De Bruyne should be the favourite to challenge Andres Iniesta‘s nine-year stranglehold on the FIFPro World XI, but he should put most focus on toppling Messi or Ronaldo before Neymar does.

Marco Asensio


Isco isn’t the only player to condemn Gareth Bale to bench-warming duties when the Welshman manages five minutes away from the treatment room.

Marco Asensio‘s masterful dribbling has left the Bernabeu faithful doe-eyed since he was regularly deployed by Zinedine Zidane. He’s never overawed by the big stage, scoring on his debuts in La Liga, the Champions League, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, and the Supercopa.

And not only has he contributed to Bale’s limited minutes, but he’s also blocked Bale’s path to being the natural successor of Ronaldo. Asensio’s currently pocketed more league goals than any of his teammates, and doesn’t lose possession as regularly as Isco.

Harry Kane


For those who have been unfortunate enough to watch an England match in, say, the last 25 or so years, it will come as no surprise that a native hasn’t been named in the world team of the year since Wayne Rooney snuck into the 2011 lineup.

Walthamstow lad Harry Kane seems a cut above.

His blood-thirsty hunger for etching his name on the scoresheet, coupled with an unerring accuracy, has proffered the strongest candidate for not only trumping Alan Shearer’s Premier League goal-scoring record of 260, but potentially battering it.

Right now there's no better climate for Kane to play his football: the Tottenham Hotspur game plan is built around his unbelievable scoring talents. In 2017, he's scored 45 goals in 40 games for club and country.

Kylian Mbappe


Kylian Mbappe exploded onto the football scene last season with goals that helped inspire AS Monaco to the Ligue 1 title. He’s already established himself as one of the most recognisable footballers around, and his ability to contribute in various facets of play despite his starting position in the frontline is en vogue with football viewers right now.

His professionalism at such a young age – he doesn’t turn 18 until December – is also another quality that can help him become a mainstay in The Best FIFA Men’s Player final three for years to come – perhaps before Ronaldo and Messi’s powers noticeably dwindle.

To pursue individual silverware, maybe Mbappe will eventually have to step from under the shadow of Neymar in the future to secure a lucrative switch to Real Madrid or another giant. But rest assured: when Ronaldo and Messi decline or retire, the competitiveness of the race for The Best FIFA Men’s Player award could rise exponentially.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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