FIFA issued their shortlist for the Ballon d'Or award yesterday. A swelled list perhaps considering the number of players in with a chance of winning it extend to three, rather than 23.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Andres Iniesta. Those three players are likely to end up first, second, and third, possibly in that order, but each individual will have their own view on that.
The full 23 list of nominees are below:
Sergio Aguero, Xabi Alonso, Mario Balotelli, Karim Benzema, Gianluigi Buffon, Sergio Busquets, Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Manuel Neuer, Neymar, Mesut Ozil, Gerard Pique, Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Ramos, Wayne Rooney, Yaya Toure, Robin van Persie, and Xavi.
A strong field, although anybody who watched Didier Drogba's performances in the Premier League last season - five goals in 24 appearances - will wonder quite why he was selected.
His inclusion of course is part down to sentiment, part from the high profile performance in the Champions League Final, in which he scored an equaliser and netted a winning penalty.
Arguably a former Chelsea teammate of his, a current player at the club more deserving of inclusion is one of the Premier League's most in form players. But his consistent performances over the past year especially merit a nomination.
Here are the statistics to back up his achievements;
In 53 games he has scored 12 goals and provided 23 assists. Contributing 35 goals in total. He also ended the season with a Champions League medal, and a European Championships medal with Spain. Even though he played a bit-part role, he can point to his goal in the final against Italy as a significant moment for him.
The great news for Mata, and Chelsea, is he is 24 and is only going to get better. That means future Ballon d'Or nominations will surely come his way if he continues playing at his current outstanding level.
So while he should feel perhaps a little disappointed not to have made the shortlist, it should only spur him onto make more of an impact next season, for club and country, by forcing his way into the Spain team too.
Do you agree? Should Mata have been on the list?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald