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8 Ballon d'Or Snubs That Still Make no Sense

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2001: Snubbed - Raul (Real Madrid) - Winner - Michael Owen (Liverpool)

Many football fans were left surprised in 2001 as the Ballon d’Or was awarded to 21-year-old Liverpool striker Michael Owen in 2001. The England striker undoubtedly had a season to remember, helping Liverpool win the League Cup, FA Cup, and the UEFA Cup during 2000/2001.

Owen managed a remarkable 24 goals for Liverpool as well as scoring six goals in eight England appearances during the 2000/2001 season. So, why were fans surprised he took home the prestigious award? Well, another striker who had a prolific season that year was Real Madrid’s Raul. The Spaniard led the line as Los Blancos also enjoyed a winning season, claiming their 28th La Liga title.

Although missing out on the Champions League final Raul still finished as the competitions’ top scorer and managed to find the back of the net 33 times in a total of 50 games throughout the 2000/2001 season.

2003: Snubbed – Thierry Henry, Arsenal Winner – Pavel Nedved, Juventus

Any Arsenal fan will tell you French forward Thierry Henry was robbed of the Ballon d’Or in 2003, losing out to Pavel Nedved of Juventus. Henry enjoyed an outstanding season with the Gunners, scoring 24 goals and getting 25 assists in 37 league appearances – a Premier League record which still stands today. He was involved in over 50% of Arsenal’s goals in 2002/2003 with a total of 60 goals and assists in 55 games throughout the season and helped Arsene Wenger’s team to the FA Cup title, as well as a respectable second place league finish behind Manchester United. Czech forward Nedved on the other hand managed just 14 goals and 17 assists during 46 appearances in 2002/2003 – some distance behind Arsenal’s Henry. However, Nedved caught the eye in the Champions League, helping Juventus reach the final of Europe’s biggest club competition and eliminating Barcelona and Real Madrid along the way. Although losing the final to AC Milan, Nedved still won silverware in 2002/2003, lifting both the Serie A title and the Supercoppa Italiana.

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Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or Odds @ 1/1

2009: Snubbed - Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona Winner - Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Messi won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, beating second-place Cristiano Ronaldo by a then-record of 240 voting points, but another player the Argentine beat to the top spot of world football in 2009 was his Catalonian teammate and club captain, Xavi Hernandez.

It was no surprise to see Messi take home the coveted prize, as the 22-year-old scored an astonishing 38 goals in 51 appearances as Barcelona won the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge.

However, many football fans believe that the key to Barcelona’s success during Guardiola’s legendary tika-taka tenure was midfielder Xavi. As well as finding the back of the net 10 times himself during 2008/2009, the Spaniard was responsible for 31 assists in 54 games for the Catalan giants including setting up the winning goal in the Champions League final – scored by none other than Lionel Messi.

He made Barcelona tick, and it's crazy to think he was never awarded that many individual accolades because of the great Argentine.

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Robert Lewandowski Ballon d'Or Odds @ 4/5

2010: Snubbed - Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) - Winner - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Another Barcelona midfielder seemed a strong contender for the Ballon d’Or the following year as Andres Iniesta played a crucial role in the Catalan giants’ La Liga win as well as scoring the winning goal for national side Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. However, it was to be Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi who once again took the crown with 22% of the votes, Iniesta taking second place with 17%.

Although it must be noted that the Argentine was far more influential in front of goal with 47 goals in 53 games for Barcelona. Meanwhile, Iniesta scored just three goals all season and two of them were at the World Cup.

2010: Snubbed - Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan) - Winner - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Another player who many felt was in contention for footballs biggest individual prize in 2010 was Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder was vital in Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan midfield during 2009/2010, ultimately helping the Nerazzurri to win the Serie A, the Supercoppa Italiana, and the Champions League in his debut season – making them the first Italian team to win this coveted treble.

Their Champions League run even saw Inter defeat Messi’s Barcelona in the semi-finals, with Sneijder finding the back of the net and assisting in a 3-1 win over Guardiola’s men. On top of his club exploits that season, Sneijder also helped national team Holland reach the World Cup final. The Dutchman finished joint top scorer of the summer's competition and was named Man of the Match in four of his seven games.

Messi really did just get this one based on his reputation at this stage.

2013: Snubbed – Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich Winner – Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery was the star in a prolific team that saw the German side win a historic treble in 2012/2013. Bayern lifted the Bundesliga title, the DFB-Pokal, and the Champions League at the end of the campaign where Ribery contributed 34 goals and assists during the season.

The Frenchman was named UEFA’s Best Player in Europe after the Champions League final, and many believed he was a certainty to win the Ballon d’Or with a Bayern player surely deserving of the trophy. Although Messi and Ronaldo were still in the running, it was thought Ribery’s impressive trophy haul would see him clinch the award with Bayern going on to win the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in the latter half of 2013.

While Messi won La Liga with Barcelona and scored an impressive 60 goals in 50 appearances throughout the season, eventual winner Ronaldo went the entire season trophyless. Ronaldo even scored fewer goals than his El Clasico counterpart, although he still managed to score 55 goals in 55 games including 12 in 12 in the Champions League.

Ribery was seriously snubbed here. Another example of a reputation win.

2019: Snubbed – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) - Winner - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or in 2019, meaning the Argentine has now won the prize more than any other player. He led the attacking line for Barcelona as they lifted the La Liga trophy at the end of the 2018/2019 campaign and provided an unbelievable 73 goal contributions in 50 appearances.

However, many believed the award should have been won by Liverpool center-back Virgil van Dijk. The defender established himself as arguably the best defender in world football during his first full season at Anfield, winning the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for his efforts.

Although narrowly missing out on winning the Premier League to Manchester City, Liverpool boasted the best defence in the league thanks to the Dutchman conceding just 22 goals in 38 games. Furthermore, between March 2018 and August 2019, not a single player managed to dribble past van Dijk during his 50 appearances.

Van Dijk was part of the Liverpool team which reached the final of the Champions League in 2018 as well as winning the competition in 2019. Their 2019 campaign saw the Reds defeat the likes of Bayern Munich, Porto, and a famous comeback against Barcelona before defeating Tottenham 2-0 in the final, and in reality, if Jurgen Klopp's men had gained just two more points and won the Premier League too, surely this would have been enough to surpass Messi - incredible margins.

2020: Snubbed – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) Winner – Cancelled due to Covid-19

Much to the dismay of football fans around the world the Ballon d’Or was not awarded to anyone in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but in reality, it was absolute nonesense to not award the trophy to anyone as competitions around the globe still concluded.

One player who many feel deserved to win last year was Poland and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. Bayern Munich ran away with the Bundesliga title and completed a treble by adding the DFB-Pokal and Champions League trophies to their haul for the season and Lewandowski was the top goal scorer in all three competitions.

The striker netted an incredible 55 times in 47 appearances in 2019/2020, 15 of which were in the Champions League. On top of his trophy and goal-laden season, he was also named the Player of the Season by UEFA and took home The Best FIFA Men's Player prize.

He won everything other than the Ballon d'Or, which only cancelled things because of the pandemic, but they really could have still put the votes out there, not done an event and just sent the trophy to Lewandowski's house. To make matters worse, the Pole has gone on to continue his ridiculous goalscoring streak this season which even surpasses Ronaldo's best days, but once again, he is set to be overlooked this year.

Lewandowski shouldn't just have one Ballon d'Or, but two. He could end his career with neither as Messi is expected to take the trophy home for 2021 following his Copa America triumph but third-place finish with a miserable, trophyless Barcelona.