The 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or this year includes the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who is grossly out of form) and the growing Paul Pogba (who is actually playing well when the right players play around him), two world class talents who joined Manchester United from Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, respectively. However, the best player at Manchester United, and one of the best in England, has been omitted from his due recognition once again.
The first goalkeeper to almost win PFA Player of the Year in a long time, David De Gea finished third in the 2014/15 season as United barely finished fourth in the Premier League, and he easily saved United more points than any other player in England did for their respective teams. Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe even named him the best player in the Premier League in 2015 (side note: Morgan Schneiderlin made the list), but the board at FIFA didn’t seem to agree.
It isn’t just De Gea; of course, he is the Manchester United equivalent of around ten players who have been omitted in favour of players who are clearly far inferior. Harry Kane, top scorer in the Premier League last season, was omitted. N’Golo Kante has been the best midfielder on this planet this year, and if anyone disputes that, they haven’t watched him enough, or seen any post-Kante Leicester performances in the Premier League. The ever-present Sergio Busquets was forgotten, as he always is, too.
Players who have won competitions have been favoured in this year’s nomination list beyond repair. Jamie Vardy, for example, scored less goals than Kane in the Premier League and failed to make an impact at the Euros, much like his competitor. Kante was ignored in favour of his Leicester City teammate Riyad Mahrez, who has largely failed in the Premier League since the end of the season while Kante had an excellent Euros and continues to defy expectations for Chelsea. Most bafflingly, Rui Patricio makes the list, presumably because of Portugal’s Euro win- he wasn’t even a standout in the competition. And while all the cup bias is taken into consideration, Alexis Sanchez is still omitted, despite winning another Copa America with a side that lacks world class talent outside he and Arturo Vidal.
Last year, Manuel Neuer was nominated for the accolade, which, though unfair to goalkeepers, was a fair reflection of the best goalkeepers out there. However this year, one in which Neuer hasn’t won a title outside the Bundesliga and has made significant errors at times, he rides through on reputation. Rui Patricio, as aforementioned, is a joke; he’s the only player on the list not to play in Europe’s Top Five Leagues. The third one, most of all, is ridiculous- Hugo Lloris, though a great goalkeeper, hasn’t won anything, was outperformed week-in, week-out by De Gea in the Premier League.
In a year where the evolution of goalkeepers has been massive, we have witnessed the horrific events of Pep Guardiola searching for a new goalkeeper, while De Gea has distributed the ball at all distances for a few years now. His reflexes are beyond any player in football, he gains more command of his area to the day. With a year left on his contract, Real Madrid was willing to give United £30 million plus world class goalkeeper Keylor Navas, which should say enough about his quality- Bundesliga playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, player of the year, was allowed to leave for £27 million with the same clock ticking on his contract, and he was considered expensive.
Everything in football points to De Gea’s obvious quality and status as one of, if not the, best goalkeeper in the world. Therefore, it is ridiculous that he hasn’t been nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Ibrahimovic and Pogba deserve their nominations and I will be supporting them all the way, but De Gea has a bigger job with bigger gloves to fill than any other goalkeeper in the world (Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar), living up to the challenge on a weekly basis. He’s the most consistent player in the Premier League, evolving the roundedness of a goalkeeper and almost every team that comes up against United and draws/loses attributes their failures to David De Gea, for three years. If that isn’t worth a nomination for the Ballon d’Or, I have absolutely no idea what is.
You can view the full Ballon d’Or Nominations here.