Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have completely dominated world football for the past 14 years, scoring hundreds and hundreds of goals and winning cup after cup.
Between them, Messi and Ronaldo have 12 Ballon d’Ors – not to mention 14 national titles, 10 domestic cups, seven Champions Leagues, and two continental titles with their respective nations.
On nine occasions, the Argentine and Portuguese stars have taken first and second places in the race for an individual award in football.
But what if the greatest players of our generation – and two of the greatest players of all time – didn’t exist? Who would have won the Ballon d’Or in each of the years someone won?
The world of football would surely look very different without them, so we took a look at who would have topped the podium in his place if it weren’t for him.
2008 Fernando Torres (Liverpool).
After occupying the second and third places over Kaka in 2007, 2008 marked the beginning of the era of Messi and Ronaldo’s dominance, as Ronaldo topped the podium after winning the European Champions League with Manchester United and Messi finished second.
In third place that year was the new English Premier League star and Spanish striker Torres, who won the European Championship 2008.
Torres moved to Liverpool in 2007, where he established an immediate partnership with Steven Gerrard and scored 33 goals to reach the last four in the Champions League. He got off to a strong start in the 2008-09 season as well, scoring a cracking ball against Sunderland on opening day.
More importantly, though, Torres won that European championship with his country, scoring the only goal in the final against Germany with an unexpected classic finish.
2009 Xavi (Barcelona).
Another Ronaldo and Messi one two and in third place was Messi’s great teammate Xavi.
The Spaniard set the rhythm for Barcelona’s great Pep Guardiola’s first team throughout the 2008-09 season, dominating matches and leading his team to the Champions League title against Manchester United at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
2010 Andres Iniesta (Barcelona).
This was the year between 2008 and 2017 that Ronaldo and Messi weren’t one to two.
After a first titleless season at Real Madrid and a World Cup Round of 16 exit with Portugal, Ronaldo was a distant sixth, with Iniesta finishing second behind his Barcelona teammate and continuing Spain’s reign of dominance.
Barcelona may have lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final that season, but Iniesta more than made up for it by scoring the extra-time winning goal of Spain’s World Cup final against the Netherlands in Johannesburg.
Xavi completed the podium at La Masia, while Inter Wesley Sneijder (fourth) was the only player in the top eight not positioned in La Liga.
2011 Xavi (Barcelona).
Another dominant Champions League final win over Manchester United, the third-place Ballon d’Or was awarded to the Catalan midfield maestro and current Barcelona manager.
As Jorge Valdano said: “If football was a science, Xavi would have discovered the formula. With a ball at his feet, no one else communicated intelligently with every player on the field.”
2012 Andres Iniesta (Barcelona).
Another major tournament win for Spain, and a third place in the Ballon d’Or for Barcelona’s meager offensive midfield genius.
Iniesta was once again the star of his country at Euro 2012, due to his man-of-the-match strength in the final to add to the tournament’s best player award.
The fact that no Spaniard actually won the Ballon d’Or from 2008 to 2012 may have come as a surprise given the control they exercised over international football, but we think that’s just a testament to how far Messi and Ronaldo are ahead of the rest. this point.
Ballon d’Or winner Messi scored 91 goals in 69 games in 2012, due to his loud screaming!
2013 Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The Spanish grip on last place on the Golden Ball podium was finally broken, as Bayern winger Ribery entered after the German club won five domestic league titles, the Cup, the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and the Club World Cup. .
This was also the person closest to his share of the vote to break the monopoly before Luka Modric actually managed it. Ribery finished with 23.36% of the vote, behind Messi with 24.72% and Ronaldo with 27.99%.
The Frenchman certainly thought he deserved to win the award, blaming his failure to take the award on his countrymen and the grudge they held against him after he became the scapegoat for France’s disaster at the 2010 World Cup.
“It was as if [the Ballon d’Or] “It’s incomprehensible,” Ribery told Canal Football Club in 2018. “I won all the cup, I wouldn’t have done more. It was unfair.”
“My country was not behind me. I saw with my own eyes that the French said that Cristiano should win. Did the Portuguese want it to be Ribery or Messi? Of course not.”
2014 Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich).
The only goalkeeper on this list, Neuer was a World Cup winner with Germany as well as a domestic double winner with Bayern.
At this point, the German was busy redefining how far the goalkeeper was supposed to advance from his area and had he won the Ballon d’Or, it would have been due to him and the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin in 1963 to collect the brilliant ball.
Unfortunately, Ronaldo scored 61 goals and made 20 assists in 60 matches for club and country, and helped Real Madrid win the tenth title and win the third best player award in the world.
2015 Neymar (Barcelona).
Oh, how he loves this to be real.
It is no secret that Neymar has long been craving the Ballon d’Or, with the Brazilian desperately seeking to follow in the footsteps of Kaka, Ronaldo Finomino, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, who all took the award in the previous decade on the Messi-Ronaldo axis. established.
Neymar was really great in 2015 too, winning the Champions League and scoring goals who – which A goal against Villarreal in November. But with Messi still the main man at Barcelona, Neymar was unlikely to finish the lead.
– LaLiga English (LaLigaEN) 5 July 2020
2016 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid).
Ronaldo was miles ahead of both Messi and Griezmann in 2016, which isn’t surprising considering the Portuguese goal bot led Real Madrid to their 11th Champions League title, and Portugal to glory at Euro 2016 – even if the latter came about as is. He shouted from the sidelines.
But Griezmann, who has been a loser in both the Champions League and European finals, with Atletico Madrid and France respectively, may feel this was a missed opportunity.
In the Champions League final at the San Siro, Griezmann sent a second-half penalty that hit the crossbar, giving up a golden opportunity that could have given Atletico the title in regular time.
In the final of the European Championship, France were strong favourites and Griezmann was a mascot. But they didn’t take their chances in the match and Eder made them push with this lightning winner in the 14th minute of overtime.
2017 Neymar (Barcelona).
Once again, Neymar was on the podium. Again, though, it was the bottom step.
It was the year the Brazilian became the world’s most expensive footballer after his €222m move from Barcelona to PSG – and also the year he put PSG to the sword almost alone with the infamous Rimontada triumph at Camp. No in March.
However, it was not enough to topple Ronaldo, who scored 11 goals in 11 matches for Portugal and won the European Cup with Real Madrid, and scored two goals in the final against Juventus.
2018 Luka Modric (Real Madrid).
Modric really won The Ballon d-Or in 2018, became the man who finally threw away the greats.
He did enough to deserve it too, controlling matches from midfield and helping Real Madrid to do so else Win the Champions League and qualify Croatia to the World Cup final.
Messi did not reach the podium for the first time since 2006, finishing fifth behind Modric, Ronaldo, Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
2019 – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool).
Van Dijk finished second in 2019 just seven points behind Messi in the vote and fairly against Ronaldo.
Many would argue that the giant center back deserves to follow in Modric’s footsteps after the performances he put in at the heart of Liverpool’s defense when they won the 2019 Champions League.
However, Messi regained his title, breaking the sixth Ballon d’Or record after scoring 50 goals for club and country in a calendar year and leading Barcelona to the 2019 La Liga title.
2021 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich).
After a hiatus in 2020 due to the Corona virus pandemic, the ball returned in 2021 and Messi got it back again. This time, he finished ahead of Robert Lewandowski, with Ronaldo slipping into sixth place – his lowest finish since 2010.
Had the 2020 Ballon d’Or been awarded, Lewandowski would probably have won after his outrageous scoring achievements led Bayern to six times – the same titles they won in 2013, but with the addition of the German Super Cup.
“Everyone knows and we agree that you were the winner last year. I hope France Football will give you the Ballon d’Or 2020. “We all think you deserve it and I hope you have it at home,” Messi told the Bayern icon at the 2021 gala.
And Lewandowski may feel a little tough this year, too. As of November 30, Lewandowski has scored 64 goals in 54 games in 2021, breaking Gerd Muller’s record in a single Bundesliga season on his way to the 2021 title.
But with Messi finally clinching the international titles – and his impressive performance when Argentina won the Copa America – he just managed to beat the scrawny pole.