While most Liverpool fans are busy gushing over Salah making the final shortlist for football's most prestigious individual honour, a number of critics are perplexed about the exclusion of the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. However, one player, whose omission and the lack of discourse over it, has been the most outrageous is France and Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.At just 25, the French sensation already has 4 Champions Leagues and a World Cup to his name. The year 2018 has been incredible for Varane, who won the World Cup with France after missing out their Euro 2016 run to the final on home turf due to injury. He also won the Champions League for third time in a row.
However, his absence from the final shortlist stirred little to no reaction in the media and amongst followers. In fact, most people were busy losing their wits over Griezmann and Messi's exclusion.
This is truly reflective of the attitude people around the footballing community have towards defenders, and in general, players whose primary duty is to keep a clean sheet. The utter lack of respect and appreciation for these players is absolutely disgraceful.History has only repeated itself. Back in 2014 after Germany's World Cup triumph, Manuel Neuer, despite of making the final shortlist, did not win the honour even after arguably being the most deserving out of the 3 candidates. Neuer is heralded as possibly the greatest keeper of this generation, if not of all time.
Having won it all for club and country and being a decisive player in key moments, there was really nothing more that a goalkeeper could humanly do on the field.Fast forward to this year, seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric in the top top three should really come as no surprise to anyone. It is the third name, Mohammed Salah, whose inclusion is contentious. The go-to argument for people who truly believe that the Liverpool ace's inclusion over Varane is justified is that at the end of the day, the Ballon d'Or is an individual honour, and Salah had an extraordinary season individually.
The way I see it, this only proves their ignorance towards the instrumental role Varane played in Real Madrid's and France's pursuit of glory.Not to undermine Salah's contributions at Liverpool last season, but Varane has simply been more telling. The France team didn't really set the stage alight in the early stages of the World Cup. Although the attackers did dazzle in the latter stages, there were some games in which France had to rely on their resilient defensive unit, spearheaded by Varane.
He scored the opening goal in the 2-0 quarter final win against Uruguay and put on a defensive masterclass against Belgium to propel France to the final. Varane has played 10 major Cup finals, and he has won all 10. That in itself is representative of how much of a serial winner Varane is. The two finals his club and country have played with him out injured, they have lost.
Increased commercialisation of the game is perhaps another reason why defenders' contributions are constantly overlooked. Simply put, players like Varane are not exactly the most marketable. They don't do the most eye catching things on the field.
In fact, his defensive compatriots are more likely to feature more prominently in highlight reels due to the rough and tumble nature of their play (take Ramos, for example). That's not to say Varane isn't tough, it's just that his immense understanding of the game allows him to evade awkward situations which other defenders might find themselves in, situations that perhaps require a last ditch tackle.
There's more to football than catches the eye, and it is disappointing that the voters have failed to take note of such an intelligent footballer.Based on last season, Varane arguably deserves to be the first defender to receive the Ballon d'Or since Fabio Cannavaro. The reality, however, is that a much more marketable 'Egyptian King' has denied him the recognition he so rightfully deserves.