The Ballon d’Or– is the most prestigious award presented to the best football player in the world every season. It is a global stature honoured to the best male player deemed to have performed better over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists and managers. Originally it was an award for players from Europe given by one of the most reputable sports publications, France Football – a French weekly magazine. In 1995 the Ballon d’Or was expanded to include all players from any origin that have been active at European club and became the highest individual accolade in world football.
Luka Modric is the current holder of this coveted award, he was crowned the 2018/19 winner ahead of Barcelona superstar- Lionel Messi and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo for his fairytale performance where he led Croatia to their maiden FIFA World Cup final and played a major role for his club winning the Champions League last year. He finally broke the ice of dominance held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for 10 long years. But again, this year both Messi and Ronaldo, who have both won 5 a piece are in the leading race along with Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk to claim the reward. Way too early to predict the winner, XploreSports jots down the stats and figures along with the silverware lifted by the particular nominees this season. This will certainly get you out from dilemma and the logic behind listing the following nominees will guide you to make a firm decision, unbiased.
#3 Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo made a big money move to Italy this season from his former club Real Madrid, thus ending his fierce rivalry with Messi in La Liga. He was welcomed in Turin with a big expectation to guide the Old Lady to lift the Champions League. With a reputation as the most accomplished goal scorer, Ronaldo failed to showcase himself in the Italian Serie A Top Scorer list. He scored 21 goals and provided 8 assists in 2689 minutes he played, averaging 128 minutes per goal with only 52% of his shots on target. He also scored 8 goals and provided 2 assists in the Champions League this season. But Ronaldo couldn’t regain his Champions league crown at his new club for which he was eventually bought.
Although, Ronaldo helped Juventus win their eighth consecutive Serie A title. Owing to his brilliance, Ronaldo won the Serie A Player of the Year award and he also helped his team win the Italian Super Cup scoring the winning goal. We all know that Ronaldo is a player who sets his benchmark at the big games and in the Champions League this season, Ronaldo netted all of Juve’s knockout goals. His sensational hat-trick against Atletico Madrid single-handedly took Juventus to the quarter-finals. Despite scoring against Ajax in both the legs of quarter-finals, he failed to take his side over the line but he became the first player to reach 100 wins and 125 goals in Champions League. He ended his 2018/19 campaign in a bright note as he led Portugal to their 2nd silverware in the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League where he scored a sublime hat-trick against Switzerland in the semi-finals. He also became the first player to win 10 UEFA titles and the first player to score in all national teams final stages: FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and UEFA Nations League.
#2 Virgil Van Dijk
2019 was not a FIFA World Cup year and thus the most prestigious tournaments which will be taken for consideration would be Copa America, followed by UEFA Nations League. While the Champions League will essentially be the key for the recipient of this award. Both Messi & Ronaldo failed to win the European crown this season and it was the Liverpool defender who was a key component for The Reds in winning the Champions League and also reaching new heights in England along with leading his country to the finals of UEFA Nations League.
Winning team trophies for their club and country is the main factor to decide the winner along with individual reckons like the most number of clean sheets, the man of the match awards etc. The 27-year-old Liverpool centre-back has marked himself as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or accomplishing all the above aspects. The big Dutchman was a vital player in Jürgen Klopp’s team to set up an exciting English top flight in history. Van Dijk collected the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year award in 2018-19 and concluded his club campaign by being named man of the match in the finals of the Champions League against Tottenham. He had the pace, won every duel and was instrumental as a player to create an upset in the semifinals against Barcelona. He stood like a rock in defense and no opposition player could complete a dribble past Virgil Van Dijk in 64 appearances in all competition, we even saw players like Messi and Ronaldo struggling to dribble past VVD at essential stages of respective tournaments. In the 2018/19 season, Van Dijk made 62 appearances in all competition and scored 9 goals, providing 4 assists with a successful pass percentage of 89.1% winning 4.3 ariel duels per game (most by any defender). Ballon d’Or is rarely awarded to a defender and Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win this award back in 2006. After the Champions League triumph, he also guided Netherlands to the final of UEFA Nations league losing to the hosts Portugal 1-0 in a completely dominating performance by Van Dijk. He could well start a new era for the defenders to be crowned with the most coveted individual trophy in football.
#1 Lionel Messi
Messi citied to win the Champions League this season, as the little magician quoted this himself in the captain’s speech before the season began. His hopes were dashed as despite being 3-0 in aggregate Barcelona lost to Liverpool in the semi-finals. He guided Barcelona to lift their 26th La Liga title but failed to register a win despite scoring a goal against Valencia in the finals of the Copa Del Rey. Thus, registering only a single trophy this season. But on an individual level, keeping in mind that Ballon d’Or is an individual award given to the best performer this season, there hasn’t been anyone close to Leo Messi’s stats.
In a prolific campaign this year the Argentina international netted 51 goals and single-handedly took Barcelona to another La Liga victory. He netted 51 goals in total, with 36 coming in LaLiga, 12 in the Champions League and 3 in the Copa del Rey that made him Europe’s top scorer and the European Golden Shoe winner. He was also included in the Champions League best XI and was the UCL top scorer this year. The feats achieved this 2018/19 season saw him breaking the 40-goal mark for a 10th consecutive season, reach the 600 goal milestone, fastest player in Europe to reach 20 league goals, First player to score 400 LaLiga goals, most LaLiga wins as a player, LaLiga top scorer, LaLiga top assister, Most goals- 51. Most assists- 19, Most hat tricks- 4, Most free kick goals- 8 that won him the Golden Boot 2018/19. With all these top-notch records and definable metrics, the Barcelona star has the best chance of winning the Ballon d’Or again after 2015 if he takes Argentina far in the ongoing Copa America.