The Ballon d’Or is one of the most prestigious awards in the world of football. Often cites as the highest individual award along with the FIFA Player of the year, this award is given to the best performer of the year.
Earlier, Johan Cruyff, Mitchel Platini, and Marco Van Basten were considered an elite class for winning multiple Ballon d’Or till Cristiano Ronaldo won the award in 2008. What followed was dominance over the award by two of the greatest players in the World. The rivalry assured that from 2008 till 2018, none other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or.
However, if were to imagine a world without the two Goats, the list would look rather different. Let us take a look at who could have been the alternate Ballon d’Or winners if it were not for the two legends from 2008 to 2017.
Fernando Torres – 2008
In 2008, Fernando Torres was in one of his greatest forms, and quite simply one of the greatest Goalscorers in the world. The Liverpool striker would tear defenses apart with ridiculous ease and score all kinds of goals.
Not only did he excel in club football, but Torres also scored the only goal in the 2008 Euro final where Spain beat Germany to win the Euro 2008. Given the stats and performance, Torres surely would have won the Ballon D’or in 2008, if only Cristiano Ronaldo did not exist.
Xavi – 2009
2009 was the year of Barcelona. Having won the treble, Barcelona was surely at the top of the world. Things could not have looked any better for the Barcelona ace midfielder Xavi who was praised all over for his contribution to the Barcelona team.
He even earned comparisons with the likes of Platini and Matthaus and was the top assist provider for the season of 2009-10. Xavi was miles ahead of any other midfielder in terms of quality and would have won the Ballon D’or if only, the only player better than him at Barcelona itself i.e Lionel Messi did not exist.
Wesley Sneijder – 2010
2010 was a year when the Ronaldo – Messi dominance over the award should have been broken. At the club level, Wesley Sneijder was in top form. He was the best player of the Inter Milan team which won the treble including knocking out Barcelona from the Champions League. Sneijder also reached the Finals of FIFA world cup with the Netherland where they had lost to Spain. Perhaps it is harsh to say, but Sneijder did deserve the Ballon d’Or over anyone else.
Wesley Sneijder had a legitimate right over the Ballon d’Or but the voters seemed to have favored the record-breaking goalscoring spell of Lionel Messi and gifted the award to him.
Xavi – 2011
2011 again was the year of Barcelona with eliminating Real Madrid in UCL semi-finals and winning the Champions League 2011. The same year, Xavi made his 549th appearance and become the highest appearing player for Barcelona. Winning the league as well as the champions league, Xavi had all the Prerequisites of being the best player in the world.
It was just that Lionel Messi had one of the best individual seasons for a player and outdid even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Especially with his performances against Arsenal and Real Madrid in the champions league.
Andres Iniesta – 2012
Barcelona conceded the league to Real Madrid while losing to Chelsea in the Champions League Semi-final. Even though Barcelona won the club world cup along with Copa Del Rey. Iniesta had a rather illustrious time with Spain National team with whom he won the Euro 2012 and was named the best player of the tournament.
The only thing coming in his win was the Career best Individual performance of Lionel Messi, who scored 91 goals in a calendar year.
Franck Ribery – 2013
After waiting 4 long years, Cristiano Ronaldo finally won his Second Ballon d’Or in 2013. However, Franck Ribery of Bayern had a better season trophy wise in comparison to both Ronaldo and Messi. In 2013, Ribery won the Champions League as well as the Bundesliga with Bayern. He was even awarded the UEFA Club footballer of the year and when the Ballon d’Or went to Ronaldo, termed it as a robbery.
But on an individual level, Ronaldo had scored 66 goals while Ribery was on 22 goals in all competitions.
Manuel Neuer – 2014
The year 2014 belonged to Cristiano and Real Madrid who won the La Decima i.e Club’s 10th Champions League trophy. Cristiano finished the season with a record 17 goals in a UCL campaign and was awarded the Ballon d’Or.
However, Germany’s Manuel Neuer could have an equal Claim on the award given he won the World Cup with Germany and stopped the likes of Lionel Messi in the Final. Afterall, Cannavaro had won the award under similar circumstances.
Neymar – 2015
After being denied for 2 years, it was in 2015 that Lionel Messi again won the Ballon D’or behest winning a treble with FCB including the Champions League.
If there was another player who deserved the Award in absence of Leo or Cristiano, it would be Neymar. The Brazilian scored 31 goals and 25 assists in all competitions. It was Neymar’s one of the best individual seasons as he won the treble with Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann – 2016
In 2016, Griezmann was one of the most in-demand players in world football. Antoine Griezmann certainly established himself as a top-quality world-class player.
Undoubtedly the best forward in France. Griezmann had an excellent 2016 year where he scored close to 40 goals. He guided both Atletico Madrid and France to the Champions League and Euro 2016 final respectively.
However, in both the finals he came up short against Cristiano Ronaldo’s teams. Griezmann lost out on two important trophies and the prestigious Ballon d’Or award as well, to the same man. Griezmann is one player whose career would have reached new heights if Cristiano Ronaldo did not exist.
Luka Modric – 2017
In 2017, Modrić was a regular starter with Real Madrid. He won the 2016–17 La Liga, as well as that year’s UEFA Champions League. In the final Modric provided the assist for Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in the final against Juventus.
Modrić was included in the Champions League team of the season. He also became the first Croatian to win the Champions League three times. He also received the UEFA Club Football award for Best Midfielder of the Champions League season.
Modric would have won the Ballon d’Or in 2017, had Cristiano Ronaldo not been around. Cristiano Ronaldo had one of the best seasons that year. Highlights of which were seen in the two goals he scored in the Champions League final against Old Lady.