The Ballon d’Or award may not be the top award in FIFA any longer, but it’s still one of the top honors in the world of football. While winning it is obviously huge, just being part of the shortlist of players under consideration is a massive honor — and it’s an honor that Dries Mertens has won.
It’s an appropriate acknowledgement of Mertens’ incredible 2017. He started the year on fire after converting to striker for Napoli in October thanks to the injury to Arkadiusz Milik, and has scored 28 goals so far in 2017 in all competitions, including several vital goals in the Champions League. He’s been an absolute revelation ever since moving up top, and being on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or really helps cement the legacy that he’s started to craft in Naples.
Mertens is the only Napoli player to make the shortlist, and one of five Serie A representatives in the 30-man listing, which includes Gianluigi Buffon, reigning Capocannoniere winner Eden Dzeko, Leonardo Bonucci, and Paulo Dybala. Notably absent is one Gonzalo Higuain, who did not enjoy 2017 as much, with several notable periods of struggle for Juventus, including early this season.
It’s unlikely that Mertens wins the final award, but don’t be surprised if he makes the cut-down version of the list that will come out during the run-up to the award ceremony. He’s been in phenomenal form, and he’s going to get a lot more attention before it’s all said and done.