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Lionel Messi snub and Cristiano Ronaldo decision explained by Ballon d'Or organisers

France Football have explained their reason for not including defending champion Lionel Messi on this year's Ballon d'Or shortlist.

It was touch and go if Messi, 35, was going to make the 30-man shortlist for the men's award. The Argentina international experienced an indifferent first season at Paris Saint-Germain, winning the Ligue 1 title but struggling to replicate his form in front of goal.

Messi scored just 11 goals for PSG, his worst return since the 2005/06 campaign. In comparison, the forward found the net 38 times during his final season at Barcelona. But he's made a good start to the current season, scoring three goals in his first two games.

Many fans were curious about Messi's omission and France Football, who've organised the award since 1956, was keen to clarify the decision via a Q&A on L'Equipe's website. Emmanuel Bojan, a journalist for the magazine, was responsible for answering the queries.

"Inevitably, Lionel Messi, with his 15 appearances in a row since 2006, his seven Ballon d'Or victories, his title holder status, weighs very heavily when it comes to the final choice," Bojan explained when asked about the seven-time winner's snub.

"The Argentinian was part of the discussions to integrate the 30, but the new criteria for the Ballon d'Or were unfavorable to him: disappearance of the criterion of a player's entire career, and new periodicity, modeled on a season of football and no longer over a calendar year, which does not make it possible to integrate the Copa America of July 11, 2021.

Cristiano Ronaldo made the Ballon d'Or shortlist, but his old rival Lionel Messi missed out (Getty Images)

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"And then, it must be admitted that his first season in Paris was very disappointing both in terms of the visual impression and the statistics."

Karim Benzema, who is the overwhelming favourite for this year's Ballon d'Or, was included on the shortlist alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

There were some surprise nominations, such as AC Milan forward Rafael Leao and RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku. Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller also made the shortlist, just a month after he was diagnosed with a testicle tumour.

Although Messi was omitted, his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo was nominated. The Portuguese superstar, who scored 24 goals for Manchester United last season, has been included on the 30-man shortlist every year since his first nomination in 2005.

But Ronaldo's inclusion was not welcomed by everyone. "The statistics say the opposite," said Bojan when probed on the decision. "Ronaldo became the top scorer in national football this season [117 goals]. He was extremely decisive in the Champions League group stage with four off-the-cuff goals that gave Man Utd seven points.

"In the Premier League, he has 18 goals including two hat-tricks. In total, 32 goals in 49 matches is not as many as in his best seasons but enough to be among the 30 best players in the world."

Men's Ballon d'Or shortlist: Thibaut Courtois, Rafael Leao, Christopher Nkunku, Mohamed Salah, Joshua Kimmich, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Vinicius Junior, Bernardo Silva, Luis Diaz, Robert Lewandowski, Riyad Mahrez, Casemiro, Heung-Min Son, Fabinho, Karim Benzema, Mike Maignan, Harry Kane, Darwin Nunez, Phil Foden, Sadio Mane, Sebastien Haller, Luka Modric, Antonio Rudiger, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin De Bruyne, Dusan Vlahovic, Virgil van Dijk, Joao Cancelo, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

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