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Messi faces Ronaldo, Van Dijk but no Neymar for Ballon d'Or



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PARIS (AP) — Lionel Messi will have Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk as rivals for the 2019 Ballon d'Or award. But not Neymar.

When the long list of 30 candidates was announced Monday — in the city where Neymar has played for more than two years at Paris Saint-Germain — the Brazil star's name was missing from the nominations by a global voting panel of journalists.

Messi and Ronaldo's 10-year grip on the individual award organized by France Football magazine was broken by Luka Modric last December.

Modric is also absent one year after he swept the Ballon d'Or and FIFA best player awards after a stellar 2018 with Real Madrid and Croatia.

Messi won his sixth FIFA award last month, edging Van Dijk who starred in Liverpool's Champions League-winning team.

Van Dijk would be the first defender topping the poll since Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

The Liverpool center back was among seven teammates nominated, including Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino. They also won the Copa America with a Brazil team that managed without an injured Neymar.

World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is favored to add a Ballon d'Or to her FIFA award won last month.

The United States star is joined on a 20-woman list by teammates Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. Defending her title is Ada Hegerberg, winner of the inaugural women's award, from Europe's dominant club team Lyon.

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