As expected, Argentina forward Lionel Messi and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo made it to the shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d'Or award. UEFA Player of the year Virgil van Dijk is also included in the shortlist, along with several of his teammates

This year's 30-man shortlist for the most celebrated football award includes seven men from UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool FC. While Van Dijk is one of the seven, the others include Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Alisson. The Reds are leading in terms of total inclusions into the shortlist.

Manchester City contributed the second-most number of names to this year's shortlist. Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero are on the list. Another English club, Tottenham Hotspur, was represented by Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min. Players from English clubs accounted for a majority of the shortlist.

Real Madrid CF's Eden Hazard made it to the list for his amazing performance last year for former club Chelsea FC, says BBC. Alongside Messi, Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Antoine Griezmann are the other three to be named in the list. Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also included.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi Getty Images

Football pundits are surprised at the omission of Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar Jr, Manchester United & France midfielder Paul Pogba, and Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

Messi and Ronaldo have so far shared 10 Ballon d'Or titles between them. Each of them has won it five times. In a recent interview, Ronaldo expressed his desire to win more Ballon d'Or trophies than his rival, Messi.

Just a week ago, Ronaldo scored his 700th career goal. He has been in fine form lately, both for his national team and Turin-based Juventus FC. Messi, on the other hand, won The Best FIFA Men's Player of the year title. However, right from the start of the season, the Argentine superstar was absent from Barcelona's regular starting XI because of some recurring injuries. Calf and adductor strains affected Messi and simultaneously, it took a toll on the defending La Liga champions.

It remains to be seen if the Ballon d'Or will land back in the hands of one of these two players, or if someone will snatch it away from them, just like Luka Modric did last year.