Neymar, Van Dijk, Griezmann: Ballon d'Or winners if Ronaldo and Messi were excluded

  • Kobe Tong
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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated the Ballon d'Or in the modern era.

Not since the days of Michel Platini and Marco van Basten has France Football's prestigious award been dominated by one or two superstars, winning 11 of the last 12 trophies to be handed out.

However, if there's a downside to Ronaldo and Messi spreading their magic across the beautiful game, then it's the fact that so many world-class players have missed out on Ballon d'Or glory.

Ronaldo and Messi's dominance

Besides, it's crazy to think that the award that Michael Owen and Pavel Nedved were able to get their hands on was never collected by the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Thierry Henry.

But that doesn't mean we can't imagine who would have hogged the headlines at those iconic award ceremonies in a world where Messi and Ronaldo never decided to become footballers.

And that's exactly what ESPN have done this week by trawling through the Ballon d'Or votes to see who would have won in each year of the Messi-Ronaldo era if they weren't up for contention.

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Ballon d'Or without Messi and Ronaldo

So, without further ado, join us down the rabbit hole to see which eight players have missed out on a Ballon d'Or trophy because of Ronaldo and Messi's excellence.

2008: Fernando Torres

The world's best number nine at the time, Torres was fresh from scoring the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final and opened his Liverpool account with a stunning record of 33 goals in 46 games.

2009: Xavi

Providing four assists in a 6-2 annihilation of Real Madrid and floating a gorgeous Champions League final assist to Messi were two Ballon d'Or-worthy moments alone for Xavi in 2009.

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2010: Andres Iniesta

A Ballon d'Or snub so egregious that Marca later branded it a crime and France Football personally apologised to Iniesta with the Spanish wizard scoring the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.

2011: Xavi

Barcelona were named the greatest team that Sir Alex Ferguson had ever faced in 2011 and that wouldn't have been the case without Xavi pulling the strings in the heart of their midfield.

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2012: Andres Iniesta

Barcelona's midfield duo were just unstoppable in this era, weren't they? Iniesta was named the 'Best Player' at Euro 2012 as Spain retained their status as the best team on the continent.

2013: Franck Ribery

Many fans still think that Ribery was robbed of this award as Bayern Munich's best performer in a year where they won the Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB-Pokal and FIFA Club World Cup.

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2014: Manuel Neuer

The best individual year from a goalkeeper in living memory with Neuer bagging both the World Cup and Golden Glove for his stunning sweeper-keeper performances in Brazil.

2015: Neymar

With a first Champions League title in his pocket, Neymar wrapped up his most prolific season in a Barcelona jersey that summer with a staggering 39 goals from out wide.

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2016: Antoine Griezmann

Winning both the 'Best Player' and 'Top Scorer' awards at Euro 2016 was the cherry on top for a year in which Griezmann closed out the highest-scoring season of his Atletico Madrid career.

2017: Neymar

A mesmerising 27 goal contributions in 30 La Liga games was the perfect way for Neymar to bow out at Barcelona, before hitting the ground running in Paris after his world-record move.

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2018: Luka Modric

No changes here as the Real Madrid magician prized open Messi and Ronaldo's duopoly in a year that saw him lift the Champions League trophy and lead Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final.

2019: Virgil van Dijk

Truth be told, there's good reason to think that Van Dijk should have beaten Messi to the 2019 gong because he was nothing short of unstoppable as Liverpool won the Champions League title.

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It just feels fairer... doesn't it?

Frankly, we think that Ronaldo and Messi should have had their own Ballon d'Or trophy because as much as they deserved most of their wins, it will never feel right that Iniesta never won the prize.

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