Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry on Tuesday billed Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoinne Griezmann and Gareth Bale as top contenders to win the Ballon d’Or this year.
“One of Bale, Leo, Ronaldo and Griezmann could win the Ballon d’Or, Henry told reporters here at a promotional event of a leading kit manufacturer.
France Football, the magazine that founded the prestigious individual honour given to the best player of the year, released a probables list on Monday.
Real Madrid and Portugal star Ronaldo, 31, and FC Barcelona and Argentina magician Messi, 29, both featured in a list of 30 nominees for the 2016 award.
Griezmann finished top scorer in the 2016 Euro helping France reach the final and also helped Spain’s Atletico Madrid reach the summit clash of the Champions League.
Bale carried Wales to an unlikely semi-final in the Euro while also winning the Champions League with Real Madrid.
Messi and Ronaldo have finished first and second in each of the past five years with Messi edging out his great rival three wins to two, including his triumph last year.
“Those guys are just abnormal. I’ve never seen players like them before and I am sure you’ve never seen before. They score what 50 goals 60 goals, 90 goals a season. It is irrelevant asking if defenders before would have stopped them and not fair on defenders of their time. We will never know that.”
Henry, who has played with Messi at FC Barcelona during his stint with the Catalan giants, added he would love to see Messi win it for a record sixth time.
“I have played with Leo so you know how I would feel if he wins. It is difficult to see anyone coming between him and Ronaldo,” Arsenal’s all-time top-scorer said.
On Paul Pogba’s woeful start to his Manchester United career, Henry, who is World Cup winner with France having scored over 50 international goals, said, “Mourinho is still looking for best 11, best system. When I came (to the Premier League), I wasn’t playing well. I have faith in Pogba. Nowadays people want things to happen very fast. He needs time to adapt.”
Henry was instrumental in Arsenal winning the English Premier League unbeaten in the 2003-04 season, which earned the team the title of “Invincibles”.
Asked whether any team can emulate that feat, the lethal striker who is now an assistant coach to Roberto Martinez in the Belgium national team, said, “It is possible to repeat Invincibles’ feat of winning League by remaining unbeaten. But we did it first,” smirked the 39-year old.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, a former team-mate, is on the right path according to Henry.
“Definitely Zizou is on the right path. Winning the Champions League first up is great,” Henry said.
He said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger changed the philosophy on how football should be played while legendary manager of Manchester United Alex Ferguson, who was often pitted against Wenger, set out what he intended to do.
“Arsene changed philosophy of how football is to be played. And Ferguson did what he set out to, knock Liverpool off their perch.”
Henry, in his first visit to India, said Indian football should look to Iceland, who reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and Costa Rica as templates of how to improve.
“Iceland and Costa Rica are proof that hard work pays. You need to start early and not at an age when you are becoming professional.”