On Monday, France Football announced that they won’t be giving away the Ballon d’Or in 2020, owing to the fact that many leagues and competitions were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time since its inception in 1956, the prestigious award won’t be given away, a piece of news that comes as a big shock to many players who performed at their usual best, despite the fact that the season was ravaged by the two-month lockdown break.
Ballon d’Or 2020 becomes the latest casualty in the long list of events that have been affected by the global calamity.
As per a statement from France Football editor Pascal Ferre, awarding the accolade after one of the most unusual seasons in recent history would be ‘unfair’.
“It’s such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one. It isn’t a decision we took lightly, but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner, and what really worried us it that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded.”Pascal Ferre
Understandably, it may be the right call to cancel the Ballon d’Or, although many players will feel hard done by, given their lofty standard of performances throughout the course of the 2019-20 season.
That being said, we decided to draw up a list of potential candidates who could have won the Ballon d’Or if things had happened normally. Here are our top five picks who could possibly have landed the big prize, if not for the COVID-19 outbreak.
#5 Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain)
He may be infamous for his alleged ‘dark arts’ but there’s no denying the fact that Ramos can walk into the playing XI of any team, and improve it vastly.
On a personal level, the Spaniard enjoyed a stellar campaign, putting up a show at both ends of the pitch and would have definitely been of the contenders for the 2020 Ballon d’Or.
Apart from his characteristically solid defensive displays, the 34-year-old chipped in with 13 goals across all competitions, with of those coming 11 of them in La Liga alone.
Real Madrid’s penalty kick specialist has converted 22 spot-kicks in a row now, while also becoming the highest-scoring defender in La Liga history.
Despite the heroics of Karim Benzema in front of goal, Ramos gets our vote because of his exploits in attack as well as in defence.
#4Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich/Germany)
Having shattered the previous record of most assists provided in a single Bundesliga season (19), Thomas Muller’s tally of 21 lay-offs, 25 across all competitions, makes him a worthy entrant on this list of potential 2020 Ballon d’Or winners.
The German playmaker also scored 12 goals in total, eight in the league, playing a huge role in Bayern Munich’s record eighth consecutive Bundesliga title.
Muller was the driving force, the creator-in-chief within the Bavarian juggernaut, and his exploits alongside Robert Lewandowski helped the German club to a league and a cup double, while they are favourites for the Champions League as well.
The 30-year-old World Cup winner didn’t enjoy the best of starts under former Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac, and at one point in time, it was being reported that Muller was considering leaving the German giants during the winter transfer window.
However, it all changed after the appointment of Hansi Flick, who helped Muller and essentially everyone within the dressing room at the Allianz Arena to raise their game to a new level altogether.
#3 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal)
The man, the myth, the legend, Cristiano Ronaldo is ageing like fine wine, getting better with each passing day. The Portuguese forward has had a hand in half of the goals that Juventus have scored in Serie A so far.
Ronaldo has played 42 matches in total across all competitions this season, scoring a total of 34 goals – 30 of which have come in the league, while he also has set up seven goals for his teammates.
The 35-year-old recently became the first player to score 50+ goals in La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A as well.
Serie A’s joint-top goalscorer could have won his sixth Ballon d’Or and levelled with Lionel Messi if the coveted prize was up for grabs, especially with Juventus being one of the favourites for the Champions League this season.
#2 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)
Robert Lewandowski had a great chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, having enjoyed a spectacular season so far.
The Polish hitman played a huge role in Bayern Munich’s domestic double, and judging by his own lofty standards, the 2019-20 season has been Lewandowski’s best in a Bavarian shirt till date.
He’s played 43 matches for Die Roten, amassing a tally of 51 goals across all competitions, as well as providing six assists.
Lewandowski’s 34 strikers helped him win his fifth Torjägerkanone – Bundesliga’s award for most goals scored in a single season – with Lewandowski claiming the prize for the third season in a row now.
The numbers are mind-boggling, and frankly, if Lewandowski helps Bayern Munich win the Champions League, then few players will be able to stand within the same bracket as him.
#1 Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)
Earlier in the day, Barcelona’s official twitter handle retweeted France Football’s statement about the Ballon d’Or 2020, along with a caption that we couldn’t frankly disagree with.
Read it for yourself:
The sheer audacity of Barcelona would amuse or enrage anyone, although the Catalan giants did just state plain facts. Even by his own talismanic standards, Lionel Messi has had a stellar 2019-20 season, he’s been on fire, and more so since the two-month hiatus.
The Argentine maestro missed Barcelona’s first few games of the season due to an injury, and still managed to score 25 goals in the league – 30 across all competitions.
Moreover, he broke the record of most assists in a single La Liga campaign by setting up 21 goals for his teammates, just another day in the life of Lionel Messi.
Sadly for him, Barca haven’t been at the races this season, but isn’t that the point of this whole Ballon d’Or thing? A player outperforming everyone else, breaking records for fun and carrying a team on his shoulders?
Frankly speaking, Barcelona are just lucky that Messi is still performing at such a high level week in, week out, and we cannot imagine where the Blaugrana would be without him.
Honourable mentions: Kevin de Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marc-Andre ter Stegen