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No surprise to see Italians not make the grade

The national teamâÂÂs limp showing in South Africa coupled with Inter not having a home-grown regular in their Treble-winning side meant it was somewhat unsurprising to hear there were no  Italians on the 23-man shortlist for this yearâÂÂs Ballon dâÂÂOr.

However there are four Serie A, and specifically Inter, based nominees in the running â  Wesley Sneijder, Samuel EtoâÂÂo, Douglas Maicon and Julio Cesar - but strangely no Diego Milito, who seems to have paid for a World Cup spent on the Argentina substituteâÂÂs bench despite being the top goalscorer in last seasonâÂÂs Champions League and scoring twice in the final.

There is also no space for Nerazzurri defender Lucio, although that is perhaps more understandable given his poor showing in South Africa and, by his standards, poor early-season form at club level.

EtoâÂÂoâÂÂs goalscoring has been exemplary but the boat has probably long since sailed for the Cameroon international as far as winning the top awards goes, leaving Sneijder as perhaps Serie AâÂÂs leading contender for the recently restructured gong.

An excellent first season in Italy followed by a World Cup Final appearance seemed to have put the Holland international in pole position but, like Lucio, his form so far this season hasnâÂÂt been quite as impressive.

There have been whispers that the former Real Madrid player has not warmed to new coach Rafa Benitez and would have followed Jose Mourinho back to Spain if the chance had arisen.

A new contract has yet to be agreed although the club have maintained it is a mere formality â but  even if he does sign there is no guarantee that the midfielder will remain beyond the summer.

Inter's Ballon d'Or contenders...and Diego Milito

The Dutch master needs a couple of really high-profile performances in Europe to keep him ahead of the Barcelona trio of Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi - although if he does make the final three-man shortlist then helping his side win the Club World Cup could well do the trick when the winner is revealed on January 6.

The Ballon dâÂÂOr has been kind to Serie A over the last decade; Pavel Nedved in 2003 (although it should have been Paolo Maldini), Andriy Shevchenko the following year, Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, (thanks in part to Marco Materazzi World Cup final shenanigans), and Ricky Kaka in 2007.

However, recent seasons have been lean for Italian nominees, with none last year either. Gianluigi Buffon is generally a shoo-in, but the Juventus goalkeeper has spent most of the year injured.

Daniele De RossiâÂÂs career has stalled in spectacular fashion over the last two seasons â a combination of burn out and injuries have impeded him, although his reluctance to leave the bubble of Rome for the big wide world has ultimately been his undoing.

His personal problems were the talk of the Capital and you never know a move to Real Madrid could have been just the fillip to re-ignite the midfielderâÂÂs career never mind getting him noticed for an award.

As it stands there were no viable candidates: Antonio Cassano didnâÂÂt have the chance to pull on the Azzurri shirt in the summer, while playing for Sampdoria isnâÂÂt exactly going to gain many plaudits .

Mario Balotelli received more headlines for his spats with Jose Mourinho â a certainty for coach of the year â than for his on-pitch exploits, while the only other name that springs to mind is Giorgio Chiellini, so we rest our case.

Oh well, England and France donâÂÂt have a name on the list either, and if Sneijder were to win we could at least point to football being a team game - just not a team of Italians in InterâÂÂs caseâ¦