France Football has blamed Eden Hazard’s “insipid” form for much of 2016 for his omission from the Ballon d’Or shortlist, while acknowledging Karim Benzema’s Euro 2016 absence was a factor in the Real Madrid striker missing the shortlist.
The prestigious annual award that recognises the premier individual performer in world football is back under the sole control of France Football following a split with FIFA and the publication identified a group of players it classed as being close to its 30-man shortlist.
None more so than Belgium playmaker Hazard, who has shown signs of rediscovering his best form under Antonio Conte at Chelsea after ailing badly amid the club’s wretched Premier League title defence in 2015-16. “If there was only one put forward, it would probably be him,” said France Football of Hazard.
“Seeing Eden Hazard away from this list can be an anomaly. There is nothing in view of [the] insipid performances of the Belgian during most of 2016.
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“After 22nd place in 2013, 21st in 2014 and a very nice eighth position last year, Hazard restarts [from] zero.” Six of Benzema’s Madrid colleagues are named on the list – the most from any club side following their Champions League triumph.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe following that up with Portuguese glory at Euro 2016, where Benzema was unable to assist hosts and runners-up France as he was not considered for selection due to being charged in relation with the Mathieu Valbuena blackmail scandal.
“We know why we did not see [him] at the Euro,” said France Football. “And his absence in the major competition of the year necessarily weighted the balance.”
The publication added Benzema lacked a decisive impact for Madrid during big marches last season. Arsenal duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Juventus and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, Bayern Munich and Germany defender Jerome Boateng and Barcelona and Croatia Ivan Rakitic were also singled out as players unfortunate to fall short of the final 30.
Leicester City’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez made the cut and the winger told France Football he was honoured to be Algeria’s first ever nominee. “It is a great honour,” he said. “I am proud to be at this level, especially [considering] where I come from.
“But now I stay focused – do not stop here and keep working.”