Last Tuesday saw football's world governing body FIFA unveil their 30-man shortlist for the 2016 Ballon d'Or award.
The coveted annual prize sees the best-performing star of the past 12 months rewarded at a black-tie event and, ever since the trophy was forged from the ashes of France Football's Ballon d'Or gong and FIFA's World Player of Year Award in 2010, it has only ever been presented to either Barcelona's Lionel Messi or Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, this year competition to knock the pair of their perches is extremely strong and, in a recently conducted poll by the boffins here at 90min, votes were cast on which one of six Premier League stars should win the prize.
In first place with just under a quarter of the votes isLeicester City's Riyad Mahrez, who pips Manchester City's Sergio Aguero to top spot.
The vote isnot really surprising. The Algeria international was chosen as the 2016 PFA's Player of the Year for his scintillating performances in a Foxes shirt, as he helped Claudio Ranieri's men to a nigh-on impossible Premier League title win last term.
Mahrez notched 18 goals and 10 assists in 37 league appearances and wowed fans, pundits and journalists alike with his silky skills, electric pace and outstanding finishesas Leicester mounted the most unlikeliest of title charges.
Virgil van Dijk: Only Riyad Mahrez (10) has won more PL MotM awards than Van Dijk (9) since the start of last season https://t.co/aWQGP2QyLb
The 25-year-old has not yet hit the heights of last season during 2016/17, but few would bet against himhitting a run of form in the near future and maybe runningMessi and Ronaldo closefor this year's Ballon d'Or crown.
Mahrez's 24% share of the public vote just edged out the mercurial Aguero into second place in our poll, with the striker bagging a more-than-respectable 23%.
Aguero has been in frightening form already this season, with 13 goals in 14 appearances in all competitions, as he followed up the previous campaign's haul of 29 in 44.
People who call Aguero 'an over rated stat padder' are probably the same people who said Suarez was a 'flat track bully who couldn't finish'
The Argentina international has never featured in the top three of the Ballon d'Or, despite receiving plenty of nominations throughout his playing career.
After enjoying a sterling maiden campaign at the Etihad alongside Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne is next up in the poll with 18% of the votes cast.
The Belgian play maker wowed Premier League football fans last term as he reset opinions on his quality following his ill-fated spell at Chelsea, and already has 19 goals and 21 assists in just 51 games for the Citizens.
What a goal #1 https://t.co/NAZGMjiRm9
The fact thatCity finished the 2015/16 season with just a League Cup triumph to show for their efforts could end up counting against both Aguero and de Bruyne in the voting properbut, if form is the only true criteria taken into account for the Ballon d'Or, de Bruyne has as good a chance as anyone.
Fourth place in our poll saw two French stars pick up 12% of the votes each, with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and West Ham play maker Dimitri Payet tying for second-to-last position.
Lloris excelled in goal for Mauricio Pochettino's men as Spurs launched their own title challenge for much of the last campaign, but the wheels fell off spectacularly in the final few weeks to leave the Lilywhites in third place behind Leicester and London rivals Arsenal.
Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer is the only shot stopper to come close to winning the Ballon d'or since its merger with the World Player of the Year award and, thanks to Tottenham's erratic form this season and last, Lloris will struggle to feature in the final top three.
Payet, like de Bruyne, excelled in his first season with new club West Ham throughout the 2015/16 campaign as he aided the Hammers' push for European football.
A haul of 15 goals and 17 assists ensured that the France international became adored by the West Ham faithful. Payet was alsoone of the few European stars to take his club form into this summer's Euro 2016 tournament.
The 29-year-old has struggled for form and fitness during the opening months of 2016/17 but, as one of the few who contributed on the domestic and international stage over the past 12 months, he could be a dark horse for this year's prize.
Finally, bringing up the rear is last season's Premier League second-highest scorer Jamie Vardy who, despite his heroics for championsLeicester, only picked up 11% of the votes.
The lightning-quick forward is unlikely to land the prestigious award, but his match-winning antics last term mean he has more-than-deserved his place on FIFA's shortlist.
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