Following the inability of Barcelona and Real Madrid to produce comebacks from humiliating first-leg defeats in Germany, the fates of the best two players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, in this season’s Champions league have finally been sealed.
Prior to the draws of the Champions league semi-finals being made, it had looked like the battle to be crowned the best footballer on the planet was going to remain a two-horse race as it has been in recent years: a straight fight between Messi and Ronaldo.
But the hopes of either player adding another Golden Ball to the ones they have already was dealt a huge blow after both Real Madrid and Barcelona were handed comprehensive defeats by their German opponents.
That humbling defeat left both teams with a mountain to climb in their second-leg encounters, and although Real Madrid salvaged some pride with a 2-0 victory over Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was still not enough as they exited the competition out 4-3 on aggregate. Another 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich last night only compounded Barca’s woes as they crashed out 7-0 on aggregate.
So, with both players set to miss the Champions league final at Wembley on May 25, is it perhaps time for another winner of the Ballon d’Or to emerge for the first time since 2007?
Despite that, Messi and Ronaldo have been outstanding for their respective teams this season, as always, having scored more than 100 goals between them, but they have both been unable to inspire their teams to collective team success.
In addition to failing to win La Decima (a 10th European Cup), Ronaldo couldn’t help his Madrid team successfully defend the La Liga title they won last season, while Messi’s magic wasn’t enough to prevent a below-par Barcelona from crashing out of the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
However, it is hard to point to another favourite for the Ballon d’Or apart from the world’s best two.
Gareth Bale may have added the FWA Player of the Year award to the PFA Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards he won last weekend, but the Welshman is still some way off from being the best player in the world - although some may think otherwise.
He plays for a Tottenham side currently locked in a three-way battle with Chelsea and Arsenal to finish within the Champions League places in the Premier League and has failed to win a major trophy with Spurs despite his brilliance. He is also a long way off the goalscoring record of Ronaldo and Messi, having scored 'just' 19 league goals.
Until the 23-year old moves to a team that can compete for major honours every season, he will not compete favourably in the race for the world’s best player.
One may also tend to look at the two Bundesliga teams that progressed to the Champions League final at the expense of the Spanish giants for a potential Ballon d’Or candidate. However, unlike Real Madrid and Barcelona, neither Bayern Munich nor Borussia Dortmund can point at a particular player as the star of the team - although the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze have all been highly instrumental to BVB’s journey to the Champions league final.
Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller have also been pivotal to Jupp Heynckes' side as Bayern continue their march towards a heroic treble but none of the aforementioned players can claim to have enjoyed a season as terrific as the best two in the world in terms of individual performances.
There is no doubt that Messi and Ronaldo still lead the way as the world's best players despite their disappointing exit in the Champions League - yet a surprise winner could still emerge when the Ballon d'Or winner is announced later in the year.
Do you think the Ballon d'Or could still be won by Messi or Ronaldo, or has another player done enough to deserve it? Let's have your opinion in the comment box below.
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