Sheffield-born striker Jamie Vardy has become the first Englishman since 2012 to be nominated for the Ballon D’or, one of the most prestigious individual honours in world football.
The Leicester forward has been rewarded for his efforts over the past 12 months, in which he scored 24 goals to guide his team to an unlikely Premier League title. Vardy also made his tournament debut for England in the summer during their disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
The 29-year-old broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive league matches last season, on his way to collecting the Football Writers Player of the Season award.
He joins his Foxes teammate Riyad Mahrez on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon D’or alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Vardy started his career in the youth academy at Sheffield Wednesday and was still playing in the conference for Fleetwood just five years ago. Leicester City then signed him for a non-league record fee of £1 million in 2012.
He joined the youth set up at semi-professional side Stocksbridge Park Steels in 2003 before making his first team debut in 2006 before eventually leaving the South Yorkshire based club to move to Halifax at the end of the 2009/10 season.
Stocksbridge Chairman and founder Allen Bethel knew Vardy during his seven-year spell at the club and said “I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had heard and seen everything but Jamie being on the list made me speechless. I saw the news yesterday and even this morning I couldn’t get my head round it. We’re very proud and humble of what he has achieved.”
In total, eight Premier League players were nominated for the Ballon D’or including Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero as Vardy aims to become the first Englishman to win the award since 2001 when Liverpool’s Michael Owen picked up the award.