Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi paid a high price for an underwhelming first season with Paris Saint-Germain when he was left off the 30-strong list for this year’s coveted football award.
Lucy Bronze, who was runner-up in 2019, is one of three members of England’s Euro-winning squad to be short-listed for the women’s award.
Messi, who won the title last year, had been an ever-present amongst the nominations since 2006 and a regular feature in the top three since 2007 with the exception of 2018.
But Messi, 35, has missed out on the 2022 award following his switch from Barcelona to the French capital.
A change in the format has also worked against the Argentine superstar with the Ballon d’Or no longer acknowledging the best player over a calendar year.
Instead, it is based on a season’s record highlighting “the individual performances” and the “decisive and impressive character” of the nominees, according to the criteria.
After leaving Barcelona in the summer of 2021, Messi was unable to stamp his genius on a PSG team desperate for a Champions League title.
The French champions suffered a last-16 exit at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid.
In total, Messi scored only 11 goals for PSG with his relatively indifferent club form failing to impress France Football magazine, the organisers of the Ballon d’Or which will be awarded in Paris on October 17.
PSG teammate Neymar also misses out after a season where he scored 13 goals in 28 matches.
The remainder of the list of nominees throws up a few surprises.
French international striker Karim Benzema is the overwhelming favourite after being the architect of Real Madrid’s 14th Champions League title.
He finished the European campaign with 15 goals.
Benzema is likely to become the fifth French winner after Raymond Kopa (1958), Michel Platini (1983, 1984, 1985), Jean-Pierre Papin (1991), and Zinedine Zidane (1998).
In the 2021/2022 season, Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 appearances for a Madrid side who also won the Liga title.
His goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the European Super Cup took the 34-year-old to 324 goals for the Spanish giants.
That edged him ahead of Raul in the club’s all-time list with only Cristiano Ronaldo in front of him with 450.
“He’s in line for the Ballon d’Or. Is there any doubt? For me, no,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Manchester United’s Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, is nominated again this year.
Benzema is joined on the 30-man list by teammates Thibaut Courtois, Casemiro, 2018 winner Luka Modric, Vinicius, and former Chelsea player Antonio Rudiger.
Beaten Champions League finalists Liverpool have seven players nominated, the most of any club.
They are Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luis Diaz, Fabinho, Sadio Mane, since transferred to Bayern Munich, Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah, and Virgil Van Dijk.
There is a 20-strong list for the women’s Ballon d’Or including English stars Bronze, Millie Bright, and Arsenal forward Beth Mead who won the Golden Boot at the women’s Euro.
France have four nominations — Selma Bacha, Kadidiatou Diani, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Wendie Renard.
Defending champion Alexia Putellas, who was ruled out of the Euros with a last-minute injury, and Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg, the first winner of the prize in 2018, are also in the running.