What the full Ballon d'Or shortlist tells us about the Premier League
Last night’s announcement of the 30-person shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d’Or reinforced one of the big narratives of the past year: the dominance of English football.
Off the back of the national side being one of the biggest overachievers of the 2018 World Cup, Premier League teams dominated European competition – taking up all four places in the Champions League and Europa League finals, and having a further two teams in the quarter-finals of the former competition.
While eyes were first drawn to the sheer number of Liverpool players on the Ballon d’Or list, it's the spread of Premier League talent that tells the bigger story.
A full half of the 30 names – which you can read below – play their football in England’s top division, with five Manchester City players, two from Tottenham, and one from Arsenal to add to the seven provided by Champions League winners Liverpool.
Now look at the rest: two players each from PSG and Ajax are their respective league’s only representatives, two from Juventus and one from Napoli fly the flag for Serie A, while a single Bayern Munich name is all the Bundesliga can muster.
But this a huge break from the dominance that Spain's top flight has had over the award in the last decade. In the last 10 years, there has only been one year where a national league has been better represented than Spain. And that year, 2013, saw no single country dominate: the Bundesliga was top dog with a comparatively meagre seven names in the ring. (For clarity, it's worth pointing out we are using what team each player played for when the list came out to calculate this; so Eden Hazard is only counted as a Real Madrid player for example, even though that would increase Premier League representation this year.)
Other than that, more than 10 names have been from the Spanish top division every year since 2009. The last time another country managed that was 2008, when the Premier League did it.
So to have half the names on this list is a remarkable feat, and shows quite how broad the talent is in our domestic league – despite some of the big sides underperforming so far this season.
Perhaps all it shows is that English sides deserved the success they enjoyed in 2019. On the other hand, with other leagues struggling in comparison, perhaps it shows that the Premier League has a chance to dominate Europe in the 2020s the way that La Liga did in the 2010s.
Full 30-name shortlist for the men's Ballon d'Or 2019
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Donny van de Beek (Ajax)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Sadio Mane (Liverpol)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
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