The year is 2007 and men’s football is on the brink of an unprecedented duopoly between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
With the exception of 2018 when Luka Modric dominated the sport, every single Ballon d’Or trophy has been awarded to either Ronaldo and Messi since then, which is frankly nothing short of astonishing.
Ronaldo took home France Football’s coveted prize in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017, while Messi has lifted the golden football aloft in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021.
2007 awards circuit
However, as we all know, it was Kaka who stood out as the star performer back in 2007 with the Brazilian holding the unique status of the last man to hold off the unstoppable charge of Messi and Ronaldo.
The World Cup winner was playing the best football of his life, topping the Champions League scoring charts from midfield with 10 goals as AC Milan exacted revenge on Liverpool in Athens.
It was the cherry on top for Kaka in a stunning year where Messi and Ronaldo also started to show signs of their future world-beating best and therefore, the major individual prizes were contested between the trio.
In the Ballon d’Or, Kaka comfortably and deservedly took home the prize with 445 votes, while Ronaldo came second on 277 votes and Messi rounded off the podium with 255 votes.
“Lisandro Martinez TERMS AGREED? Ronaldo Disgrace!” (Football Terrace)
2007 FIFA World Player of the Year awards
However, while the FIFA World Player of the Year award – since rebranded to ‘The Best’ award – also saw Kaka run away victorious, there was a slight alteration when it came to the silver and bronze medals.
At an awards ceremony held at the Zurich Opera House 15 days after the Ballon d’Or festivities, Messi actually usurped Ronaldo to finish second in what was clearly a closely-contested year between the two.
And the whole situation led to what must surely be the most awkward in-person moment between Ronaldo and Messi because there was an element of confusion surrounding the 2nd and 3rd-place trophies.
Ronaldo’s awkward moment with Messi
In cringe-worthy footage that has once again gone viral this week, there seemed to be a moment where Ronaldo thought that he had finished second as he had done at the Ballon d’Or when he had – in fact – come third.
Despite the Manchester United star having clearly been announced as the bronze medalist, there were a few seconds of confusion where Pele handed him the silver trophy, leading to Sepp Blatter asking the two stars to swap their hardware.
The situation was made all the more painful by Messi proceeding to pick up the bronze plaque and then once the trophies finally found their rightful owners, one of the presenters quipped: “You tried! You tried!”
All in all, it makes for an equally excruciating and amusing moment between arguably the two greatest footballers to have ever graced the game, so be sure to relive it at your leisure down below:
Ronaldo Villain origins (2007)pic.twitter.com/1lydghAckF— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) July 5, 2022
Oof. It’s like nails down a chalkboard.
Was it Pele’s fault?
Now, given that Ronaldo speaks impeccable English and the announcers were pretty darn clear at first, you have to imagine that it was Pele who got a little bit confused when dishing out the trophies.
However, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Pele doing exactly that made Ronaldo think for a few seconds that there had been a mix up and that the exact same result seen at the Ballon d’Or had happened again.
But more to the point, the awkward exchange that ensued is what makes the whole episode so amusing with the whole ‘You tried!’ comment going down like a lead balloon as though Ronaldo was up to something.
And while some fans will inevitably read into it all for narratives and themes that simply aren’t there, it nevertheless endures as a slightly less glamorous moment in the annals of Messi vs Ronaldo.
They must have vowed to never scrap over second and third-place trophies again though, mind; judging by all the gold that’s come ever since…