We are not even into the second half of the year, but the race for the Ballon d’Or seems to be already peaking with three clear candidates emerging out so far.
Among the front-runners for the coveted trophy, which include Lionel Messi, Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo, it is the 34-year-old Portuguese, who has consolidated his claim by winning his 29th major title in the UEFA Nations League.
It might be worth noting here that a player’s form with his country and international honors, if any that particular year, have a huge impact on the outcome of the acclaimed prize.
Well, it would be foolish to rule out the conspicuous correlation between the UEFA Champions League and Ballon d’Or, with a Champions League winner being crowned the world’s best footballer at the extravaganza 14 times since the turn of the century.
As things stand, Ronaldo has won more silverware than the duo of Messi and Van Dijk this season and though he failed to stretch his winning streak in the Champions League to a record fourth consecutive year, his scintillating debut season with Juventus has established it beyond doubt that the player was never out of the contention for the Ballon d’Or, despite his worst return in terms of goals in a decade.
Alongside Barcelona captain Messi, the former Real Madrid star had dominated the award, bagging the honor five-times apiece between 2008 to 2017. So, here we take a brief look at why the player who is known to have the best work ethics in the sport has a slight advantage over his adversaries at the moment.
Ronaldo has won his second consecutive final with Portugal. Though he may not have scored in the final or finished the tournament as the top scorer, his contribution to the team’s progression to the final and the eventual triumph at the first-ever UEFA Nations League, courtesy a record-extending3rd career hat-trick can’t be overlooked.
He won two of the trophies in Italy, the league title and the Italian Super Cup with Juventus in his debut season, in which he was also the top scorer for the Turin based club.
Last year Luka Modric was awarded the trophy based on his performances for club and country, despite not boasting the best of stats.
So with world’s most expensive footballer aged over 30 also playing a similar kind of pivotal role for his club and country this season, we might expect votes to fall in for him to clinch the award a record sixth time, on the back of performances that earned him the MVP award of the Serie A.
As the Champions League went to Liverpool, Van Dijk, who himself had a memorable season, is also one of the contenders but having no other title to his name hurts his chances.
The only thing that will alter the status quo is if Messi can commandeer his national teammates to their first major honor since 1993 in the upcoming Copa America, as the Argentine maestro holds the upper hand on his eternal rival on almost all the metrics.
– Shubham Dupare