The 2015 Fifa Ballon D'or nominees have been announced with Cristiano Ronaldo on top of the soccer betting odds, but this skilled handicapper looks at five other contenders.
The longlist for the 2014 Ballon D’or was announced this week, reading like a 'who’s who' of the world’s best footballers, I’m going to look through them to see if there’s anyway Cristiano Ronaldo can be deposed, having wrestled the award from the grasps of Lionel Messi – he held it for four successive years.
Last year Ronaldo claimed the award with a total of 1,365 points, ahead of Messi (1,205) and Ribery (1,127), with the votes cast by 184 coaches, 184 national captains and 173 members of the global media. It’s amazing to think you could have backed CR7 at 10/3 straight after he picked up the Fifa award, he’s now 1/6!
I’ve picked out six of the front runners in soccer odds to assess their chances.
Gareth Bale (40/1 at Bet 365)
The Welshman has looked worth every penny of his €85.3m price tag after helping Real Madrid clinch their Decima. The 25-year-old had the best debut season of any of the ‘Galacticos’ from recent years. He scored the second goal against city rivals Atletico Madrid in the 110th minute of the Champions League final, a week after hitting the winner to secure the Copa del Rey against bitter rivals Barcelona.
James Rodríguez (40/1)
Everyone’s favourite player at World Cup won the Golden Boot with six goals for Columbia in Brazil, and his sparkling performances took the country to verge of beating the hosts. He became a twitter sensation when that giant grasshopper clung on to him too! His dipping left-foot volley, which crashed into the Uruguay goal off the crossbar, was voted the best of the competition, according to Fifa and confirmed the youngster as a special talent. The Ballon D’or may not be his this time, but like Bale it will be one day.
Angel Di Maria (100/1)
The Argentinian winger became British football's record signing when he completed a £59.7m switch to Manchester United from Real Madrid. He was the man-of-the-match as Carlo Ancelotti's side won La Decima. The 27-year-old has already proved an instant hit with United fans, scoring a couple of spectacular goals and being a creative outlet for Louis van Gaal's side. He of course starred for Argentina in their run to the World Cup final and scored a crucial winner against Switzerland in extra time.
Thomas Muller (20/1)
Muller was one of the stars of Germany’s World Cup, especially in the early stages. He backed up his goal scoring feats of 2010, by ending the 2014 version with the Silver Boot, second only to Rodríguez. He continues to push back the boundaries of attacking convention, and is a player who is thriving under the Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola.
Lionel Messi (8/1) v Cristiano Ronaldo (1/6)
If you read the Messi v Ronaldo piece then you’ll know I’m a Messi fan, but with Ronaldo the current Ballon D’or owner and his record this calendar year, I have to admit he’s edging the Argentinian at the moment. Having said that the Barca man did help his nation to the World Cup final, but largely disappointed later in the tournament as his fitness faltered. The current head to head between the two in 2014 sees Ronaldo with 49 goals in 47 appearances, while Messi has 43 in 54. Add to that the Madrid man has just scooped the La Liga Player of the Year accolade and the 1/6 looks like a nailed on winner.
Mario Balotelli's start to life at Liverpool hasn't gone according to plan, and according to the Daily Mirror's Martin Lipton, former Reds manager Rafael Benitez is planning to test Brendan Rodgers' resolve with a £10 million bid in January to bring the striker to Napoli.
The Italian is yet to find the net for the Reds in Premier League action and has struggled adapting to the team's playing style so far, often drifting wide or dropping back when he should be attacking the ball in the box.
His debut alongside England international Daniel Sturridge looked promising, however, and an injury to the latter has had a large impact on Balotelli's early-season form.
It’s clear his form would improve if Sturridge was alongside him, but the facts don’t lie. He has scored one goal in three Champions League appearances, is yet to find the back of the net despite that open goal he had, in six games. He did kick-start the League Cup turnaround against Swansea in the week, so maybe he will find his scoring touch, but for someone claiming to be world class, he’s a long way off.
If I was in charge at Liverpool, I’d walk him to Italy myself. I’d take the 7/2 on him leaving in January for this soccer pick.