FA Analysis: Which Players Have Been Snubbed of a Ballon d'Or Award?

The Ballon d'Or dominance from Spain

There was a time not too long ago when football's most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d'Or, was long debated and fiercely competitive. That was until 2008 when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as global wrecking balls on the opposing defences and formed a mesmeric charge of awards towards La Liga.

The two superstars have created their own history and record books away from the norm where the greats of Marco van Basten, Kaka, Zinedine Zidane and co. sit. Luka Modric has been the only man to dethrone the two great men, although Messi would reclaim the Ballon d'Or just 12 months later.

Modric's win in 2018 did, however, mean that the claim for the best in the world stuck with a player within Spain, overlooking the greats of world football from outside of La Liga once more.

Now, after 12 years of a Messi-Ronaldo dominance, with a sprinkle of Croatian, we take a look at what players have been overlooked down the years for this prestigious trophy, from Andres Iniesta and Virgil van Dijk, to Thierry Henry and Raul.

Franck Ribery 2013

It's rare to see a team that wins an unprecedented Treble also see one of there players finish so far away from winning this famous trophy. In 1999, David Beckham narrowly missed out to Rivaldo, whilst in both of Barcelona's Treble-winning campaigns, Messi reigned supreme.

However, in 2013, Franck Ribery found himself third in the list, behind both the usual winners. Ribery's year was absolutely incredible, registering five Champions League assists, as well as 10 goals and 15 assists in the Bundesliga as Bayern Munich conquered everything in sight.

What is even more surprising is how it was Ronaldo who claimed the award that year and not Messi. The Argentine broke countless records when he netted 60 times in 50 games, whilst Ronaldo bagged five less and won no major trophies.

Ribery, however, won all three available and was the driving force in a record-breaking team that destroyed everything in its path. Clearly, scoring as many goals as you please doesn't always win you trophies, and overlooking the Frenchman because of this was very harsh indeed.

Andres Iniesta 2010

Perhaps the most obvious sign of the Ballon d'Or voters unjustifiably choosing Messi over many monumental figures is the 2010 race for the award.

This was a year where Barcelona's golden generation continued to dominate, winning the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Cup de Espana and La Liga. It was a year also that saw Messi reach a then-career-high of 47 goals in 53 games and form a new level for goalscoring in the modern era.

However, it was also a year which saw Spain conquer the world, powered by the midfield brilliance of Andres Iniesta. The Spaniard netted the winning goal in the World Cup final and was majestic throughout the tournament. Prior to his World Cup-winning goal against Netherlands. Iniesta would also bag a crucial goal against Chile, which saw Spain get out of Group H safely.

Spain's number six was also overlooked for the Golden Ball award in South Africa, with Diego Forlan controversially snatching that award. Ultimately, this was a year of playmaking genius which was harshly overlooked by every organisation across the board. The Barcelona star would fall short of winning the Ballon d'Or by 5.29% of overall votes to Messi.

David Beckham 1999

Picking a standout player within United's Treble-winning side of 1999 is tough, but David Beckham's magical efforts that year are what seems to be the difference, so the voters for the Ballon d'Or think.

Beckham finished second in the run-in for the prestigious title, losing to Rivaldo by 65 votes, whilst the Englishman did finish an almighty 90 votes ahead of third-placed Andriy Shevchenko. Rivaldo was, however, astronomical that campaign.

24 goals in 37 La Liga appearances helped Barcelona to another title, although, the Spanish giants' season that year was far from United's. The Red Devils became the first-ever side to win a Treble, of course, with Beckham himself registering eight assists in the Champions League and nine in the Premier League during a fabulous season down the wing.

Plus, whilst not directly contributing an assist to United's two final goals, his corners were the start of that something special. This one should of, at the very least, been much closer in the voting.

Virgil van Dijk 2019

Moving onto the most recent saga is the van Dijk snub of last season. Defenders, as you would expect, are not often in contention for such individual accolades, with Fabio Cannavaro's 2006 win one of only three times a man at the back has won the award.

However, the 2019 race was as close as a defender has come since the Italian won the World Cup in 2006 and arguments still linger today on whether or not the Dutchman was overlooked. In truth, to say Messi didn't deserve this title is also a tough claim. The Argentine bagged 51 goals from 50 games and even recorded 22 assists across the board.

Within these individual feats, Messi helped Barcelona to another La Liga title and won the Best Player award in Spain's top-flight at the same time.

Although, winning a Champions League title and being the standout player in a team that finished on 97 points in the Premier League could have easily beat Messi's claim; perhaps if it wasn't the great Barcelona star and somebody else netting those 51 goals that year, van Dijk would have snatched the award.

However, the usual need to supply Messi and Ronaldo with the Ballon d'Or reigned supreme again, with the forward claiming only seven more votes the beat the Liverpool star to his sixth title.

Just seven votes in it. Extraordinary. Even more so when you remember van Dijk finished 203 votes ahead of Ronaldo.

Thierry Henry 2003

I bet there are a lot of people out there who forget who actually won the 2003 Ballon d'Or, as it wasn't the usual contenders like Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane that year. It was, however, Pavel Nedved of Juventus, who helped the Old Lady win a 27th Serie A title.

The Czech bagged 15 goals in 43 games, including five in the Champions League where Juventus narrowly lost on penalties to AC Milan. In truth, it was a sensational campaign for the playmaker and to say he doesn't deserve the title would be slightly harsh in itself.

However, on the other hand, Thierry Henry's 24-goal Premier League Golden Boot win, alongside his still-standing record of 20 assists was too easily overlooked. Arsenal did lose the title to Manchester United by five points that campaign, which was perhaps the final nail in the coffin for Henry's Ballon d'Or hopes.

Although, if we're going off individual performances, rather than team trophies won, the Frenchman perhaps deserved this one. Henry would also outscore Nedved in Europe with seven goals and even help Arsenal retain the FA Cup.

Raul 2001

Michael Owen won the Ballon d'Or back in 2001 and was the first man to win the award from an English side since George Best back in 1968 with United. Owen, however, had serious competition from Raul that year, and debates still loom on whether or not the Liverpool star truly deserved his title.

24 goals in 46 games were decent numbers for a striker prior to the goalscoring feats of Ronaldo and Messi, and these 24 efforts helped Liverpool win an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup. However, whilst the Reds and Owen were obliterating the UEFA Cup, Raul netted the same amount of goals in La Liga (24) as the Englishman did in that entire season.

In total, Raul would slot home 32 goals, win a La Liga title and reach the semi-finals in the Champions League. Yes, whilst Owen was far from undeserving of the award, picking him over Raul was debatable and there is a reason why people still argue that to this day.


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