Ballon d'Or 2018: Bale, Benzema and Agüero among first five

Cristiano Ronaldo has been nominated for the 2018 Ballon d'Or amid the on-going rape allegation against him which he denies

Cristiano Ronaldo has been nominated for the 2018 Ballon d'Or amid the on-going rape allegation against him which he denies

Particularly in a World Cup year, it feels as though such awards - like the honours list, never to be taken too seriously - should provide a snapshot of a time (otherwise, voting for world's best footballer, we would just give it to Messi every season).

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on Monday December 3, with television coverage from 20:45 CET.

Federation Internationale de Football Association are releasing the full 30-man shortlist throughout Monday names are released in alphabetical order with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric expected to make the shortlist.

Ronaldo is the current defending champion, having won his fifth Ballon d'Or in 2017.

Real Madrid and Wales forward Gareth Bale and Manchester City's Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne also featured among a list of familiar names.

The 25-year-old was part of France's World Cup winning team, scoring a goal in the final against Croatia.

There were seven Frenchmen named on the list after helping Les Bleus win their second World Cup in Russian Federation this summer.

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They were beaten 4-2 in the final by France, and there are six of the victorious Les Bleus team on the list in Pogba, Lloris, Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe - also nominated for the Kopa Trophy - and Real's Raphael Varane.

Eden Hazard gives Chelsea another player in the running after starring alongside De Bruyne at the World Cup, with England's Golden Boot victor Harry Kane also included.

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and PSG's Neymar are nominated as are two other prolific South American strikers: Uruguayans Edinson Cavani of PSG and Luis Suarez of Barcelona.

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson are among the first five players named as nominees for the 2018 Ballon d'Or.

Saul also defended Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who was booed by fans earlier this season.

The Ballon d'Or is split into three separate criteria: performances during the calendar year, talent and fair play, and career achievements.

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