Luis Suarez’s controversial on-field antics appear to have counted strongly against him when an expert panel drew up a 23-man shortlist for the 2014 Fifa Ballon d’Or award.
Barcelona’s former Liverpool player was perhaps the most notable omission from the list of contenders published yesterday.
The list, which includes five Barclays Premier League players, also features current holder Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Suarez scored 31 goals for Liverpool as they narrowly missed out on the Premier League title in May, but his season ended in controversy after he bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini while playing for Uruguay at the World Cup.
He was served with a four-month ban by Fifa as a consequence — a suspension which ended when he made his Barcelona debut against Real Madrid in Saturday’s El Clasico — and but for that he would surely have made the list and been a strong contender.
A Fifa spokesman said “expert groups” had made subjective choices when drawing up the list, making special reference to articles two and three of the 12-point criteria.
Article two states that “the awards reward the best in each category, without distinction of championship or nationality”, while article three identifies why Suarez may have fallen short this year.
It reads: “The awards are bestowed according to on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch.”
As it stands Barcelona forward Messi and old foe Ronaldo of Real Madrid are sure to battle it out once more.
Ronaldo’s stunning form in 2014 puts him down as the clear favourite — he guided Real to the Champions League title in May and has 21 goals in 14 appearances so far this season.
His club team-mate and Wales forward Gareth Bale makes the list, with the Premier League representation made up of three players from Chelsea, one from Manchester City and one from Manchester United.
Of that quintet, though, only two were playing in the Premier League last season.
Chelsea pair Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa were at Atletico Madrid, while Manchester United’s Angel di Maria was with Ronaldo and Bale at Real. Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure are also nominated.
World Cup winners Germany have six players on the list — the most from any nation.
Defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid, Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery — the French winger who took third place last season — are other notable omissions.
The 23-man list will be whittled down to three on December 1, with the winner announced in Zurich on January 12.
Also named are the nominees for coach of the year, with Manchester City’s title-winning manager Manuel Pellegrini, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal amongst the 10.
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