by Mark Wyatt
Everyone’s favourite Welsh wizard has done it again. This time Gareth Bale has been recognised by FIFA as one of the 30 best players in the world, making it onto the final shortlist for the fourth time in as many years.
Previously he has been awarded 9th (2013), 12th (2014) and 16th (2015) but there is a strong case that this year he will break into the coveted ‘top 5’. It’s easy to see why.
Bale has had a great year for both club and country, first off he scored a decisive penalty in the shootout for Real Madrid to help the Spanish club complete ‘La Undecima’ – their eleventh victory in the competition and Bale’s second.
Coming into the European Championships after that scintillating victory saw Bale hit the dizzying heights we’ve seen so many times before.
He hit three goals in the group stage and led the line brilliantly as Wales reached the semi-finals.
Clearly he now has the credentials to launch him into the top ten of the Balon d’Or, but with his impressive CV ever growing, there’s nothing to say he won’t take home the coveted prize one day soon.
He will have to wait at least another year for this however as this year’s Balon d’Or looks set to become Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth award of his glittering career. The Portuguese won the Champions League like Bale, yet he managed to lead his team to European Championship glory in Paris (knocking out Bale’ Wale on the way).
The other competition for Bale will come from La Liga’s finest players. Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez scooped a domestic double winning the league and Copa del Rey in 2016.
Suarez also won the Golden Boot award for his impressive tally of 59 goals in just 53 games for Barcelona last season.
Lionel Messi will inevitably be a leading candidate to take his place in the top three with 41 goals in 49 games last year, whilst Neymar hit 31 in 49.
Antoine Griezmann will be the other player who can seriously contend for the top three shortlist, to be announced in the coming weeks. The Frenchman helped Atletico reach the Champions League final and helped Les Bleus reach the final at the EUROS, losing out both times to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real and Portugal. Griezmann has already collected Player of the Tournament and Golden Boot awards in France alongside winning the La Liga Player of the Year award too.
Bale’s competition is healthy but could be a stretch too far for him to seriously challenge for the prize in 2016. A stellar season for the Welshman nonetheless, but one that needs even more glamour for him to mark his name on world football even more in 2017.