One year ago today, Jamie Vardy was nominated for the Ballon d’Or, and we’ve looked back at 12 more names we can’t quite believe were on the shortlist to be named the best player in the world – featuring former Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool players.
Vardy’s inclusion was completely justified at the time, of course, after a season in which he fired Leicester City to the title and also broke the record for goals in consecutive Premier League matches.
But that doesn’t make his name any less striking looking back, especially when you consider he finished eighth in the voting, above the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Robert Lewandowski, Paul Pogba and Luka Modric.
And we’ve gone through previous shortlists to pick out the names which made us go ‘bloody hell’.
We love Mario, the mad b*stard, but for all his undoubted ability and potential it doesn’t seem quite right to rank him among the best and most consistent talents in the world.
He was, however, coming off the back of his eye-catching brace against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2012 – so this one should probably be dedicated to the Twitter banter which followed.
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ON THIS DAY: In 2012, Mario Balotelli scored twice as Italy beat Germany 2-1 to reach the Euro 2012 final.
That celebration… 💪 pic.twitter.com/qVuojXhTPy
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 28, 2017
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Earning a whopping 0.22% of the vote, Nani was nominated off the back of his best season at Manchester United – and possibly of his career.
The winger had been named the Players’ Player of the Year at the club, but it took less than two more campaigns for him to begin to fall out of favour at Old Trafford.
It was hard not to love Gyan after the 2010 World Cup, when he made us all quite heartbroken and confirmed the status of Luis Suarez as football’s pantomime villain, but he really should have been disqualified on the grounds that he was a striker who wore the No.3 shirt.
It’s easy to forget that the striker who scored one goal in 15 matches for Crystal Palace in 2016 and was known to “sit in the weight room on a chair with a cup of coffee and a muffin,” according to Brede Hangeland, was on his day one of the most devastating forwards in world football.
Adebayor scored 30 goals in all competitions for Arsenal in 2007-08 but has only managed to pass the 15-goal mark twice in the decade since.
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“Like Justin Fashanu, Squeeze, John Kerry and tubes of blue Smarties he promised much, was momentarily transcendent, but ultimately declined into familiar mediocrity,” The Guardian noted on Kanoute in 2007.
The striker showed flashes of quality in England but few expected him to outscore the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and David Villa for Sevilla in 2006-07.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the 2005-06 season saw Lehmann set a Champions League record of 853 minutes without a goal and usurped Oliver Kahn as Germany’s No.1 for the World Cup.
But it will always be remembered as the season which ended with Lehmann getting sent off after only 18 minutes of the Champions League final.
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A nomination based on his Champions League heroics for Liverpool, in which he scored winning goals against Juventus and Chelsea (sorry, Jose).
But Garcia never reached those heights again and his career became somewhat nomadic after leaving Anfield two years later.
Baros scored just two goals for Liverpool throughout the whole of the 2003-04 season but won the Golden Boot award at Euro 2004 as he hit the back of the net five times.
Remember when Trabelsi was released by Manchester City after just one season? No? Exactly.
David Beckham, Iker Casillas, Ryan Giggs, Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, David Trezeguet and Christian Vieri were among the players to receive a nomination but no votes for the 2002 Ballon d’Or award.
Thanks to Senegal’s run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, future Fulham stalwart Diop and Jamie Carragher’s best mate El Hadji Diouf received two votes each.
An example for Chelsea youngsters: play well at Vitesse Arnhem and you could find yourself on the Ballon d’Or shortlist.
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This is an epic challenge.
We’ll never get over that heartbreak.
You have to love him.
How many can you get in the onion bag?
Is there anything between them?
Carra is certainly impressed by the Chelsea man.
Ten years on from that infamous night vs Croatia.
Mikael Forssell will always be a Birmingham hero.
Featuring Liverpool, Chelsea & Arsenal players.