Ronaldo favourite to land fifth Ballon d'Or

Cristiano Ronaldo is the favourite to retain the Ballon d'Or trophy as his Real Madrid side dominated the 30-man shortlist announced by France Football yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 32-year-old forward, who helped Real win the Champions League and La Liga last season, is one of seven Real players on the list - the most from any team.

Should the Portuguese triumph, he will equal the record of his great rival and five-time winner Lionel Messi of Barcelona, who is also nominated.

The only other Barca player in the running is Luis Suarez, while Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and Edinson Cavani are also included on the shortlist.

England striker Harry Kane is among seven Premier League players nominated, alongside Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, Manchester United's David de Gea, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard, and Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne.

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, 18, is the youngest player on the list.

Among the high-profile exclusions are Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, Man City's Sergio Aguero and Man United's Paul Pogba.

The Ballon d'Or, which merged with the Fifa World Player of the Year award from 2010 to 2015 to create the Fifa Ballon d'Or, returned to France Football magazine this year having been established in 1956.

A panel of journalists picks the winner.

Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud's scorpion-kick strike for Arsenal against Crystal Palace last season was shortlisted for Fifa's goal of the year award, alongside efforts from Venezuelan teenager Deyna Castellanos and goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke.

Giroud scored with an improvised volley in the Premier League match on Jan 1, producing an acrobatic flick with his left heel to convert Alexis Sanchez's cross into the net off the crossbar while tumbling forward.

Arsenal won the match 2-0 and Giroud, who admitted afterwards that he had a bit of luck with his connection, said it was the best goal he had ever scored.

The 31-year-old is the seventh Frenchman to be nominated for the award but the first to make the final shortlist of three.

The winner of the award, named after the late Hungary captain Ferenc Puskas, will be decided by the public and announced at Fifa's annual Player of the Year ceremony in London on Oct 23. - REUTERS

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