The Ballon d’Or has been won by Messi and Ronaldo since 2008, with only Modric sneaking one away in 2018. Yet, the advancing age of the two stars may give others a chance to be the next winner, albeit not this year – 2020 award has been cancelled.
Play for the best to be the best
Looking back through the list of winners, since Michael Owen won the award in 2001, no player under the age of 25, apart from Ronaldo and Messi, has been successful. This trend was unlikely to have changed this year as the 33-year-old Robert Lewandowski – recently crowned FIFA Men’s Best player – or one of the usual duo would have won.
List of winners (not including Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) since 2001:
- Michael Owen (2001) aged 22
- Ronaldo (2002) aged 26
- Pavel Nedved (2003) aged 31
- Andriy Shevchenko (2004) aged 28
- Ronaldinho (2005) aged 25
- Fabio Cannavaro (2006) aged 33
- Kaka (2007) aged 25
- Luka Modric (2018) aged 33
The most striking factor about the list of winners above is that they all won the award while playing for one of the best teams, in one of the top four leagues. In fact, the last winner who didn’t play in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga, was Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille, in 1991.
Who could dominate next?
The main names being listed to take over (eventually) are the likes of Kyllian M’Bappe (22), Erling Braut Haaland (20), and maybe Neymar (28), who may finally pick up the award he has longed for. Unfortunately for Neymar, and Mbappe, they play in the French Ligue 1, which will not help either one of their causes.
However, the story for Haaland is looking much better. Play for a big club…check. Dominate games involved in…check. Be consistent…check. Plus, his stats are already comparable to Messi and Ronaldo who at the age of 20 were not as prolific as the Dortmund striker.
Obviously it is too early to tell, and both Ronaldo and Messi will likely win a couple more Ballon d’Ors before they hang up their boots for good. At least that will give the rest of the world time to display skills that may fill the void that will undoubtedly be left.