Chelsea cruised its way to the Premier League title last season, but Blues players were curiously under-represented in Ballon d’Or voting last week.
In the end, that wasn’t the case. No Chelsea player finished higher than defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante, who finished a distant 8th, behind the likes of Sergio Ramos, Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric. Eden Hazard, arguably Chelsea’s best overall player, finished just 19th.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said he was proud of what Kante was able to accomplish in his first season at Stamford Bridge. Kante was awarded the PFA Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year on Thursday, as well. He was also rated as the world’s second-best central midfielder behind Modric.
Of Kante’s accomplishments, Conte said, “To finish eighth in the Ballon d’Or table for a player like Kante, with his type of characteristics, it’s not simple, it’s not easy. To finish eighth for N’Golo is a great result. I’m proud for him. All the people understood the capacity of this player. He’s a fantastic player. For me, in his role he’s one of the best in the world.”
While Hazard has to be disappointed to have finished 19th, Conte admitted that Hazard simply needs to keep winning – at both the club and international levels – to mount a serious Ballon d’Or challenge in the future.
“For sure, Eden is a young player,” Conte added. “He has the potential to improve his place in this table. At the same time, I like to repeat that if you want to reach the best you have to win.”
“If you want to win the Ballon d’Or, you have to win the league, the Champions League, the World Cup. It’s important to have great wins.”
Cristiano Ronaldo took home his fifth career Ballon d’Or trophy on Thursday. Winning certainly played a big role in that. Ronaldo’s Real Madrid side won La Liga as well as the Champions League for the second year in a row. Ronaldo also helped his native Portugal to a surprise win at Euro 2016 in France.
Messi finished second, while Neymar wound up third in the voting. Gianluigi Buffon and Luka Modric rounded out the top-five.