Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Ozil: Revisiting 2012 prediction of the next 10 Ballon d'Or winners

  • Kobe Tong

Predicting future Ballon d’Or winners is no easy task.

When young players with bundles of talent like Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe burst on to the scene, the go-to forecast is that they will lift France Football’s premier prize one day in the future.

And now that Ronaldo and Messi – who have won 12 of the last 13 editions – are edging closer to retirement each year, the field is opening up for fresh faces to start lifting the famous golden ball.

Predicting Ballon d’Or winners

However, with many a young starlet having failed to reach the dizzying heights tipped for them, you’re always opening yourself up to humiliation when you start looking too far into the future.

There’s only one problem: it’s just so darn fun.

And just to demonstrate how difficult it can be to foresee Ballon d’Or winners, we’ve revisited how Bleacher Report thought the last ten years of the accolade would pan out back in 2012.

With Messi having lifted a seventh trophy in December, the predictions that Bleacher Report made almost 10 years ago can now be assessed in their entirety – and with interesting results to boot.

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Revisiting Bleacher Report’s prediction

Now, before we comb through their forecasts and how exactly they’ve aged, it’s important to remember that it was merely an exercise in fun as opposed to some sort of deluded certainty.

Besides, if anyone at any point in football history tried to predict the next 10 Ballon d’Or winners, they’d be made to look stupid a decade down the line – and trust me, because I’ve tried.

So, without further ado, check out who Bleacher report thought the next 10 winners of the top individual prize in the men’s game were going to be when they looked into their crystal ball in 2012.

2012: Lionel Messi

Actual winner: Lionel Messi

A strong start. This prediction was only made a few months before the ceremony in question, but it was nevertheless bang on the money with Messi famously scoring a mind-blowing 91 goals in 2012.


2013: Lionel Messi

Finalists: Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Actual winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Another very strong guess because although Messi and Ronaldo actually finished the other way around, tipping Ibrahimovic to finish on the podium was inspired as he landed fourth spot in reality.

2014: Cristiano Ronaldo

Finalists: Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli

Actual winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Good stuff. Another correct guess with Ronaldo winning a second consecutive Ballon d’Or trophy and it’s the last time that Bleacher Report tipped either him or Messi to finish in the top three spots.


2015: Mesut Özil

Finalists: Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale

Actual winner: Lionel Messi

To be fair, Benzema and Bale were both nominated in real life, but there was no sign of Ozil despite the German wizard striding halfway through his best season at Arsenal at the time of the ceremony.

2016: Mario Balotelli

Finalists: Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard

Actual winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ah. Everyone was duped into thinking that Balotelli was going to be a world-beater one day, but the former Manchester City man just never seemed to have the correct mentality to reach the very top.

Meanwhile, 2016 marked the conclusion of Hazard’s most disastrous season as a Chelsea player and Higuain was the butt of fans’ jokes on the back of a third consecutive final defeat with Argentina.


2017: Eden Hazard

Finalists: Thomas Müller and Aaron Ramsey

Actual winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Again, not a million miles away with Hazard earning a nomination in real life, but he did only place in 19th and Ramsey was nowhere near a nod after scoring just one Premier League goal in 2016/17.

2018: Neymar

Finalists: Marco Reus and Leandro Damião

Actual winner: Luka Modric

Every man and their dog was tipping Neymar to win the title one day and although it could still happen, it’s looking less and less likely as he struggles for consistent fitness at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazilian superstar placed 12th on the night and his compatriot, Damião, was inconspicuously floating around South American football at the time of the ceremony as opposed to being a finalist.


2019: Oscar

Finalists: Jack Wilshere and Neymar

Actual winner: Lionel Messi

That awkward moment when Oscar was playing for Shanghai Port, Wilshere was turning out for West Ham United and Neymar wasn’t even nominated when they were backed to make the podium.

2020: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Finalists: Lucas Moura and Mario Götze

Actual winner: N/A

Bleacher Report admitted themselves that they were “well beyond the limits of our prognosticating powers,” at this point and it’s easy to see why they took a random punt on ‘The Ox’ in fairness.

The Liverpool star has still enjoyed a superb career with Premier League and Champions League glory, but has never reached the dizzy heights tipped for him during his early days with Arsenal.


Oh, and, well, Bleacher Report couldn’t possibly have foreseen that this ceremony wasn’t actually going to happen anyway…

2021: Iker Muniain

Finalists: Thiago Alcantara and Souleymane Coulibaly

Actual winner: Lionel Messi

Muniain is a classy operator but nowhere near Ballon d’Or contention, Thiago was a solid shout in their defence and Coulibaly is lightyears off having faded into obscurity in the Tunisian top-flight.


A solid prediction

Now, it’s hard to judge the selections of players like Balotelli, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Oscar too much because it wasn’t from without the realms of possibility in 2012 that it would happen one day.

However, if we are being slightly critical, it’s curious to note that the Ronaldo and Messi dominance was only really tipped to last for three more years after the prediction was made.

In fact, had Bleacher Report’s forecast actually come true, then Messi and Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or back and forth wouldn’t be 7-5, but rather a slightly less dramatic scoreline of 5-2.

At the end of the day, though, it’s a pretty solid effort from the Bleacher Report team and no doubt our own prediction for the Ballon d’Or winners of the 2020s will soon look silly when we look back.

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