Lionel Messi is easily one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. The way he weaves past defences is quite a sight to behold. In fact, we’re privileged to have been able to watch Messi grow up from a wonderkid to the man who can single-handedly destroy oppositions.
This season started on a bright note for the Argentinian. Barcelona were cruising past all their opponents and Messi was at the centre of it. However, an early exit in the Champions League and being stripped of the ‘invincibles’ tag in the very last game of the season has greatly hampered Messi’s chances of winning football’s greatest honour- Ballon d’Or for a sixth time.
Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why Lionel Messi will not win the Ballon d’Or in 2018:
#5 The Ronaldo-Messi duopoly seems to be over
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated European football for a decade. In the last 10 years, they have won the award 5 times each. The last player, other than Ronaldo and Messi, to win the award was Kaka and he won it back in 2007.
Ever since, Ronaldo and Messi have been eviscerating the competition who have found it hard to keep up with these two legends of the game.
However, this season, some players have really come to the fore. Robert Lewandowski has had a stellar season and his achievements in 2017-18 are at par with that of Messi’s. Bayern and Barcelona are domestic champions in their respective leagues.
In fact, Lewandowski and his side have done better in the Champions League as they made it to the semi-finals as opposed to Barcelona who crashed out in the quarters.
And of course, Lewandowski is not the only man to have stepped up to the plate in an overwhelming way this season because we have…
#4 Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah has been a revelation this season. We have all known the pacy winger for a while now but this is the first season in which he has proved that he has honed his auxiliary skills to become one of the best players in the world.
Mo Salah has been wreaking havoc in Europe and his impact has simply been greater than that of Messi’s. The Egyptian broke the Premier League record for most goals scored in a season by overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Alan Shearer. Salah has already been named the PFA Player of the Year.
He, alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, have taken Liverpool to the Champions League final where they will face Real Madrid. Salah has been immense in almost all of Liverpool’s big games so far and is highly likely to leave his mark in the final as well.
The form that Mohamed Salah is in, if he goes on to win the Champions League with Liverpool, then there might not be a question as to who the next year’s Ballon d’Or recipient is going to be.
#3 Champions League misery
Barcelona received the shock of their season from AS Roma
It looked like Barcelona were going to steamroll past AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after winning the first leg at home 4-1. But they lost the plot in the away leg and lost the game 3-0 to crash out of the Champions League.
Winning the Champions League goes a long way towards qualifying a player for the biggest individual award out there and Lionel Messi has come up short in that aspect.
With two of his main adversaries, Mo Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo, battling it out in the Champions League final in Kiev, it is almost certain that the prize is beyond Messi’s reach now.
#2 Winning the World Cup with Argentina is a tall order
Footballers are often gauged on their ability to take their game up a notch in the big occasions. Lionel Messi has been doing that for a very long time now. In fact, he single-handedly pulled an underwhelming Argentinian squad to the FIFA World Cup 2018 with a hattrick in the penultimate qualifying game against Ecuador.
This year, Argentina are not, by any stretch of the imagination, favourites to lift the World Cup. Quite recently, they were eviscerated by an ebullient Spain team in a friendly. The scoreline read 6-1. Messi did not play the game and that goes to show how poor this Argentina side is without their main talisman.
Even with Messi in the squad, there’s only so much a team that relies so heavily on one player can do. Though they have an enviable attacking lineup, they just can’t seem to get everyone to click together.
Also, there are far superior teams in terms of squad depth and sheer quality. France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Brazil are all looking strong heading into the World Cup.
If Messi is to win the Ballon d’Or after not garnering anything of note in the Champions League, Argentina will need to better their heroics from the 2014 World Cup. And that is a tall order going by the way things stand right now.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo’s revival
Ronaldo has been in sublime form in the latter half of the season
For a decade, the battle for the Ballon d’Or always narrowed down to two players – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. And for the first half of the 2017-18 campaign, the Portuguese wizard was not even in the running.
He was in abysmal form and was criticized heavily. However, Ronaldo turned things around like only he can in the second half of the season. Ronaldo has been scoring goals for fun and especially in the Champions League, he has been absolutely unstoppable.
Ronaldo made up for lost time and then some as he finished his La Liga campaign with a staggering 25 goals and 5 assists from just 26 games. This is after he got through the first half of the season with just one goal to his name.
Ronaldo’s numbers in the Champions League are unmatched. He has scored a whopping 15 goals and has provided 3 assists in 12 Champions League games this season. He might very well go on to win the Champions League with Real Madrid as they are the hot favourites after having won Europe’s elite competition thrice in the last 4 years.
If Ronaldo goes on to win the Champions League, that will most certainly make him the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi.