Since 2008, only Luka Modric has been able to prize the Ballon d’Or trophy from the firm grips of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two have dominated the game in the last 13 years and arguably are the best players to ever grace the sport. To say that they have not deserved their combined 11 wins would be a mistake, but as they become older and their form begins to fall, is it time to celebrate other excellent players?
Despite saying this, Messi has won his seventh Ballon d’Or trophy, pulling away from Ronaldo with the most wins in history.
Despite not reaching his ridiculously high standards at Paris Saint Germain just yet, his performances towards the end of last season, as well as winning his first international honours with Argentina, the Copa America, meant that he lead the line-up.
Many feel that this was slightly undeserved, an over eagerness to celebrate Messi due to the sentimentality of him finally reaching success with Argentina.
But then again, this award seems to be just about that, and has become a formality for either Ronaldo or Messi.
So, this begs the question, who deserves to be considered the very best this year?
Robert Lewandowski seemed to have the strongest claim.
After an incredible campaign with Bayern Munich in 2019/20, scoring 55 league goals, which culminated in Champions League triumph, the striker was tipped for last year’s award. But due to COVID-19, the award ceremony was cancelled, and his chances seemed unfairly snatched from him.
But his form has not waned in the year since.
He scored a further 48 goals last season, becoming the first player in the league to score 21 goals after only 16 games.
He was also named player of the tournament after winning the FIFA Club World Cup, became the second highest scorer in Bundesliga history, won the European Golden Shoe award and last week scored a beautiful bicycle kick in the Champions League.
In terms of strikers, Lewandowski is the very best. He is not only prolific but has the ability to score spectacular goals. His list of honours is constantly growing longer and the Ballon d’Or should deservedly be added to it.
Chelsea FC boasted the most nominees this year with 5 players, including Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Mount, Kante and Lukaku. This is also ignoring the recent debate regarding whether Edouard Mendy deserved to be on the shortlist and whether goalkeepers are truly appreciated in the game.
Jorginho seemed to have the best chance for the Chelsea contingent, not only winning the Champions League with the club last season but also the EUROS with Italy in the summer, topping it off with a UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.
He has shown that controlling the midfield for both Chelsea and Italy does not need to be flashy, that keeping play moving and progressing the ball can be vital to a team’s success.
He does not score many goals other than through a hop skip and a jump when taking penalties but can split open any team with incisive passing.
His chances of winning the award were slim but it is worth celebrating a player that does not always top the goalscoring charts.
This year’s most in-form player has to be Mohammed Salah.
Currently leading the Premier League’s top scorer list with 11 goals in 13 games, it is Salah’s name that was fresh in people’s minds when the award was handed to Messi.
His quick feet, extreme pace and clinical finishing has blown all opposition defenders away.
As a vital cog in Liverpool’s lethal front three, he has shown that he is arguably the very best at this moment in time and it is hard to argue otherwise.
There will be many that may feel an injustice that he is not the player lifting the trophy, but the lack of success with Liverpool last season may have limited his campaign for the award this year.
Best Of The Rest
The rest of the shortlist is made up of Italian EURO winners, English EURO finalists and individuals who have stood out in their respective teams.
Benzema has again shown that he can be Real Madrid’s star after coming out of Ronaldo’s shadow for the last few seasons. Ronaldo, himself, has his name permanently on the list.
Insigne, after an excellent summer, has led Napoli’s line to top the Serie A at this point in time. Whilst Mbappe, Haaland and Pedri show where the award may head in years to come.
Each player on the shortlist will have some claim to the award and should be celebrated for their talent and ability to shine in some of the biggest teams and in Europe’s largest competitions. And although Lewandowski has shown that he can consistently be the very best striker, breaking more records and winning more honours, it was Messi that won his seventh trophy.
Soccer at times is unpredictable, full of upsets and shocks, but the Ballon d’Or, well, that is something a little more unsurprising.
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