So, Who Should Have Won the 2020 Ballon d'Or?
This image is a derivative of Golden "Winner of the Ballon d'Or in 2015" Trophy for FC Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi at Camp Nou Museum in Spains capital, by Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0)
The Ballon d’Or is considered to be one of the premier nights in the footballing calendar. With 2020 already having taken away so much from football players and fans, for the first time since 1956, the sport's most prestigious award will not be handed out due to the ongoing global pandemic.
Did Lionel Messi miss out on a record 7th award? Did Cristiano Ronaldo miss out on equalling Messi’s record of 6 titles, or did an ‘outsider’ like Robert Lewandowski miss out on joining Croatia's Luka Modric as the only player not named Messi or Ronaldo to claim the honour since 2007?
Let’s take a look at who could have won the award had it indeed have taken place:
THE TOP 3 FAVOURITES
From their statistics and contributions to their respective clubs, fans and pundits alike made it abundantly clear that Messi, Ronaldo and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski were the three clear favourites to win the prestigious trophy.
Apart from his 23 goals in the 2020 calendar year, Lewandowski slammed home 34 in the Bundesliga this season at an insane rate of one goal for every 81 minutes of football. His contribution helped Bayern Munich win a 30th domestic crown, while his 6 goals in Euro 2021 Qualifying helped Poland top their group.
Lewandowski also broke the record of most goals scored by a foreigner in a single Bundesliga season, eclipsing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s record of 31 which he set with Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season.
Apart from that, he's scored 13 goals in the Champions League so far, and is well on his way to break the record of most goals scored in a single UCL season. Ronaldo currently holds the record with the 17 he netted for Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season.
Speaking of Ronaldo, he was the highest goal-scorer in Europe this year. With a total of 31 goals this season in the Serie A for Juventus, he broke a plethora of records: He became the first player in 60 years to score 25+ goals for the famous Bianconeri, and the first player since 1958 to score 30 goals in the Serie A. He also became the first player to score 50+goals in three different leagues. While he did help Juventus lift the Serie A for a 36th time, the Turin-based giants once again failed in Europe, knocked out of the Champions League by Lyon courtesy of away goals. The loss also spelled the end of the Maurizio Sarri's short tenure as manager.
Lionel Messi, on the other hand, had a phenomenal year once again. While his numbers in the goal department were slightly lower than his counterparts, his role as a playmaker saw him do wonders with the ball. With a total of 16 assists in 2020, and 25 assists across the La Liga season, he broke the record for the most number of assists in a single season, as well as the most goal contributions in a calendar year.
In terms of key passes per game, Messi was streets ahead of both Ronaldo and Lewandowski. He averaged 2.7 key passes per game, proving the most influential player not only for Barcelona, but in the entire league.
OUTSIDERS WHO MIGHT HAVE HAD A CHANCE
Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller, like teammate Robert Lewandowski had an exceptional season as well, and was instrumental in 'Die Bayern' winning it's 8th straight Bundesliga crown. While Muller only chipped in for 7 of Bayern's 100 league goals, he broke a Bundesliga record, registering 21 assists- a title previously held by Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne, who set the previous record with Wolfsburg in the 2013-14 season.
Another key player who may have made the top-5 shortlist was Real Madrid's veteran talisman, Karim Benzema. The French striker netted 21 goals and had 8 assists for 'Los Blancos'and helped Real overcome Barcelona to win its 34th La Liga title.
From the Premier League, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling produced brilliant seasons combining for 33 goals and 21 assists, almost up-ending Liverpool's historic, breakthrough crown. Manchester United’s 25-year old Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes also put in an amazing campaign, conjuring 8 goals and 7 assists and playing a pivotal role in dragging the Red Devils back to the Champions League.
Kevin De Bruyne created nine chances for Man City against Real Madrid, the most any player has created against Real in a single #UCL match across the past four seasons.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 7, 2020
On another level. 🔵 pic.twitter.com/6ZND2hJ21E
Interestingly, none of Liverpool’s Premier League winning side produced an earth-shattering statistical season, which if nothing else, goes to show just how well they performed as a team, steamrolling to its first title in 30 years.
SO, WHO SHOULD HAVE WON?
While Messi’s numbers are simply out of this world, Barcelona’s failure to win La Liga might have put him behind both Ronaldo and Lewandowski in the race for the award. They are however still alive in the Champions League, and their upcoming quarter-final against Bayern Munich may further complicate things.
With the way things are currently positioned, Robert Lewandowski may well be in the pole position to become the first Polish player to win the award... if only there was one.
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