LONDON • Leicester City heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, stars in their team's fairy tale run to the English Premier League title last season, have been named on a 30-player shortlist for this year's Ballon d'Or.
Vardy - who has enjoyed a meteoric rise from amateur football to rub shoulders with the game's biggest names - is the sole Englishman nominated for the prestigious prize awarded by France Football.
The magazine is organising the trophy on its own after the end of a partnership with world football governing body Fifa.
Vardy, scorer of 24 league goals in Leicester's historic season, is also the first Englishman to be nominated since Wayne Rooney in 2012.
The 29-year-old and Mahrez are among eight Premier League stars on the list. The others are Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Hugo Lloris, Dimitri Payet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba.
Three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and last year's winner Lionel Messi, who has won it a record five times, are among the favourites to take the prize once again.
Ronaldo, who took home the award in 2008, 2013 and 2014, set himself up for a potential fourth Ballon d'Or after he captained Portugal to Euro 2016 glory and helped Real Madrid to an 11th Champions League triumph.
Ronaldo's club and international team-mate Pepe also made the list along with Sporting Lisbon's Rui Patricio, who kept goal in Portugal's run to Euro glory.
Other members of Real's Champions League-winning campaign - Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos - have been recognised as well.
Messi and his two Barcelona striking partners, Neymar and Luis Suarez - scorers of more than a century of goals between them this year - also feature on the list along with team-mate Andres Iniesta.
Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann is another leading contender.
However, his compatriot Karim Benzema is not on the list. The Real striker's year was overshadowed by the sex-tape blackmail affair which led to him being frozen out of the national team ahead of the Euros.
The winner will be determined by a vote of journalists. National team captains and managers will no longer have a say after the ending of the five-year deal last month between France Football and Fifa.
The winner is set to be announced in January.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS