Messi faces Ronaldo, Van Dijk but no Neymar for Ballon d’Or

PARIS (AP) — Lionel Messi will have Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk as rivals for the 2019 Ballon d’Or award. But not Neymar.

When the list of 30 candidates was announced on Monday, the Brazil star’s name was missing from the nominations by a global voting panel of journalists.

Messi and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the individual award organised by France Football magazine was broken by Luka Modric last December.

Modric is also absent one year after he swept the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Best Player awards after a stellar 2018 with Real Madrid and Croatia.

World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is favoured to add a Ballon d’Or to her FIFA award won last month.

The United States star is joined on a 20-woman list by teammates Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan.

Neymar has twice placed third in Ballon d’Or voting, both times finishing behind Messi and Ronaldo. Moving out of Messi’s shadow in Barcelona, where they won a Champions League title together in 2015, has not delivered the personal acclaim Neymar sought.

Messi edged Van Dijk to win his sixth FIFA award last month.

Van Dijk would be the first defender topping the poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

The Liverpool centre back was among seven teammates nominated, including Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino. They also won the Copa America with a Brazil team that managed without Neymar.