As the oddsmakers suspected, Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon D’or today.
It’s Messi’s record-setting sixth Ballon D’or, moving him one past Cristiano Ronaldo for most all-time.
Expect that record to stand for some time. Ronaldo is in decline and won’t be winning another Ballon. Kylian Mbappe appears to be the only current player at the right age and profile who could make a run at six.
The win also gives Barcelona a record 12 total as a club, moving them one past Real Madrid.
With this year’s Ballon in the books, let’s look ahead at 5 potential contenders for next year’s award.
Were you expecting anyone else? Messi is having another fantastic season. If Barcelona win La Liga and the Champions League, it’d be difficult to imagine anyone other than Messi taking top honors in 2020.
He may not even have to do both if he keeps producing moments like this.
Despite being among the best (if not the best) pure #9s in the world for a number of years, Robert Lewandowski has never finished in the top 3 (he was 8th this year). He’s scored something like 497 goals so far this season (or more accurately, 27 across all competitions). If he keeps that pace up, at a minimum the prolific Pole should crack the top 3. The main things that could derail him are: 1) If Bayern Munich do not win the Bundesliga, and 2) if Bayern bow out of the UCL early again.
At 31, this may be Lewandowski’s last real shot for recognition as well. There’s some whiffs of Luka Modric here.
Manchester City hasn’t had a top 3 Ballon finalists, well, ever. This next year sets up well though for Sterling. With City currently in third place in the Premier League and basically out of contention, the club will focus 100% on winning the Champions League. If Pep and co. avoid bottling in the quarters for a third straight year and actually win the competition, Sterling will obviously have played a major role.
Also…the Euro 2020 looms large. England are currently favorites to win the Euro 2020. It would be a near impossibility not to reward Sterling if City and England take those trophies.
He’s going to win one some day (he was sixth this year). And if he doesn’t win multiple times, that would surprise most of us. Mbappe’s calculus is similar to Sterling’s: if PSG win the Champions League and France win the Euro, the soon-to-be 21 year-old will be recognized.
It’s rare for defenders to win this award. The last backline player to do so was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. Only Franz Beckenbauer has done it twice (back in the 70’s). So while it wouldn’t be unprecedented to see Virgil van Dijk as a finalist next year, the odds are against it.
But if Liverpool continue their dominant Premier League run, somebody will garner recognition. Why not TAA?
He’s racking up assists at a record rate for a defender. And like with Sterling, if England win the Euro 2020, he’ll have likely played a major role in it. His 19th place finish this year is a good indicator that he’s already in the conversation.