BEIJING, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Not since Kaka in 2007 has a player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo won football's top individual prize; the Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo and Messi, combined ten-time winners, lead a 30-man shortlist for the 2018 Ballon d'Or announced by France Football magazine, but it's not clear whether a new name will end their dominance or if one of the them claims the title for the sixth time.
Ronaldo still makes a strong case. He won the UEFA Champions League title with Real Madrid for the third time in a row and the Portuguese star was also the top goal scorer for the sixth time.
In 2018, Ronaldo moved to Juventus in a transfer worth 100 million Euros, the highest ever paid by an Italian club and the highest fee ever paid for a player over 30 years old. The 33-year-old slotted in his 10th goal in 14 league games last Saturday.
Ronaldo impressed at the 2018 Russia World Cup. The Portuguese superstar scored four goals in the 2018 World Cup in total and became the oldest player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup match, helping Portugal secure a 3-3 draw against Spain in their opening match. Portugal's early elimination gave Ronaldo no further platform to show his great talent.
Ronaldo faces a straightforward fight with his former Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric. The Real Madrid playmaker belied his 32 years by running more kilometers than any other midfielder while also providing the finesse that helped unlock rival defenses.
2018 was truly a fruitful year for Modric. The midfielder led Real Madrid to an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League title and captained Croatia to the World Cup final for the first time in the country's history, which earned him the Golden Ball, the award given to the best player at the tournament.
The Croatian star just added the World's Best Playmaker at the end of November to his World Cup Best Player and FIFA Best Player awards.
A French winner of the 2018 Ballon d'Or also seems likely.
Among the nominees, six were from the World Cup champion France, which reflects the great influence of the most prestigious association football tournament in the world. France lifted the World Cup trophy twenty years ago and Zinedine Zidane won the Ballon d'Or in the same year.
Kylian Mbappe was undoubtedly the best new talent at the 2018 World Cup and the Paris Saint-Germain forward's performances for France confirmed his status as football's newest superstar.
The 19-year-old bagged four goals in Russia, including a stunning 30-yard drive in the final. Together with Mbappe, his French teammate Antoine Griezmann and Raphael Varane were also considered promising winners.
Griezmann scored four goals at the World Cup and won the Bronze Ball as the third best player. As one of the best defenders, Varane won the World Cup and played every minute of every game. The center-back made 11 appearances when Real Madrid won their 13th overall Champions League title.
Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi seems to have no advantage this year, as his La Liga trophy with the Spanish soccer giant Barcelona was not comparable with the UEFA Champions League title. At the 2018 World Cup, Argentina was eliminated by France in the round of 16.
Messi scored the opening goal in an eventual 2-1 victory in Argentina's final group match against Nigeria, which was his only goal in the World Cup. This year may be the best chance to see someone other than messrs Messi and Ronaldo walking away with the Ballon d'Or.
Among the 30 nominees, Neymar is believed to have little chance of winning the award as the Brazilian star didn't have a good World Cup as he entered the tournament with hopes of leading Brazil to their sixth World Cup title.