Sports

US World Cup hero Rapinoe favourite to pick up Ballon d’Or 2019

Megan Rapinoe looks set to be awarded the Ballon d’Or, after her heroics helped the United States to World Cup glory this summer.

Having already picked up the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in September, the 34-year-old forward is the favourite to win what will be only the second ever women’s Ballon d’Or, after the women’s award was launched last year.

The award recognises the best player in the world for that year.

The Reign FC forward scored six goals in the World Cup and earned both the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

Ada Hegerberg was the first ever woman to be awarded a Ballon d’Or, when she picked up the gong in 2018.

There was some controversy as the Lyon and Norway forward collected her award, when the host asked her on stage if she knew “how to twerk” – a comment perceived by many as sexist.

In the men’s category, Lionel Messi is odds-on favourite to win a record sixth Ballon d’Or.

The Ballon d’Or has been awarded five times apiece to two footballing titans of their generation – Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter, while nominated for this year’s award, hasn’t had the same impact in 2019 as his Argentinian rival.

Messi, who last won the award in 2015, has already scored 11 goals and provided eight assists in just 14 games so far this season, while in the 18-19 season he scored a stunning 51 goals in 50 games.

SkyBet puts Messi as clear favourite to win the award at the glitzy ceremony in Paris tonight, with odds of 1/33. He is followed by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk at 8/1, and then by Ronaldo at 20/1.

Last year, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric won, marking the first time in 10 years that neither Messi nor Ronaldo were named the world’s best player. It also marked the recognition of a player whose primary purpose isn’t to score goals. After helping Liverpool to become champions of Europe and propelling them to the top of the Premier League this season, van Dijk will be hoping to cause an upset and become the first defender to win the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

In fact, Liverpool’s domination of Europe is reflected in the shortlist for the award – the Reds have six other players alongside van Dijk.

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