The Ballon d’Or has been awarded since 1965 by France Football, initially to the best European players before being expanded to cover the entirety of the footballing community.
Even though their partnership with FIFA, started in 2010, ended last year, the signature Golden Ball (Ballon d’Or in French, hence the name) is still regarded as the highest individual honour up for grabs in football.
And we all know how big that is.
Here, factoring in performances from January to the first fortnight of October 2017, we have a look at the top 5 contenders for the Ballon d’Or – and rank them accordingly.
The winner of the 2016 Ballon d’Or was, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo
Please remember, this is an award that should, ideally, go to the best “individuals” out there and you are welcome to come up with your own top 5, basis their performance from Jan – mid-Oct, in the comments below!
Isco has been magical for Real Madrid ever since he, and Gareth Bale’s frail muscles, convinced Zinedine Zidane to give him an extended run in the competition. He runs the show at the Bernabeu, his dancing feet and impeccable vision the basis of most Real Madrid attacks.By the end of the year he was virtually unplayable – and although Madrid haven’t started off too well this year, Isco certainly has picked up where he left it
For Spain, too, he has emerged the main man – and he ran circles around Italy in their top-of-the-group clash that sealed automatic qualification to World Cup 2018 for La Furia Roja… a performance that left Marco Veratti singing his praises that evening
“I suffered a lot against Isco. I was taken aback by his performance.Not even [Lionel] Messi has come close to that level. When I saw his nutmeg, I felt like standing up and applauding too.”
4. Harry Kane
Harry Kane is arguably the best out-and-out striker on the planet at the moment, and that has to count for something, right?
Only Lionel Messi has scored more goals than the Englishman during the calendar year 2017, and apart from that eerie annual August blip, he’s been unstoppable all year round.
After collecting his second consecutive Golden Boot at the end of last season (sure, Tottenham Hotspur won the square root of bugger all, but this is an individual award) and having played September and half of October with the full intention of keeping up his purple patch, the man they now call a one-career-wonder (a play on the jibes he was dismissed with during his first good season) is now a genuinely serious threat to the establishment.
No Englishman has won it since the irrepressible Michael Owen in 2001, and no one has even made the top 3 since Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard finished 2-3 in 2005 (Ronaldinho won it that year) but keep this form up and Harry Kane should soon enough join those illustrious ranks.
No Brazilian has won the Ballon d’Or since Kaka did over a decade ago, and only Neymar himself has made it to the podium since (in 2015, when he won 7.86% of the vote to Ronaldo’s 27.76% and Messi’s 41.33%).
Neymar, though, has been in fantastic form in 2017. He may have had a lackluster La Liga season by his usual standards, but he pulled off arguably the performance of the tournament when he hoisted Barca on his back and climbed the impossible summit of Barcelona 6 – 1 PSG in that memorable pre-quarterfinal clash.
Since joining those self-same opponents he so casually had destroyed just months previously, he’s taken himself to the next level – toying with defenders, creating chances with impunity and generally making Ligue 1 the most watchable league in the world all by his lonesome.
For Brazil, meanwhile, he has been unplayable… the phenomenal totem of Tite’s great Brazilian renaissance and the main reason A Selecao are favourites to the title next year.
Sure, he may not walk home with the Golden Orb this time around, but it would take courage to bet on him doing the same next year.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Winner of the Champions League. Winner of La Liga. Scorer of 10 goals in 5 Champions League knock-out matches (the quarters, the semis and the final). All-around badass.
Ronaldo stamped his authority on the footballing calendar in a whirlwind period of four odd matches between March and June where he scored the goals that won Real Madrid all that they won. He was an unstoppable goal-scoring machine, but in the manner that has drawn some criticism in the recent past – he was a wonderful team player, agreeing to rest against the smaller sides (as advised by his coach, Zidane), hugging the touchline when asked to, switching between the roles of winger, inside forward and central striker effortlessly and against the best sides.
Carrying over the good-will of the 2016 win as well and desperately seeking that record-equalling fifth triumph, the great man is arguably the favourite to win the award.
Why the no.2 ranking then?
Because of just how out-of-this-world good the man’s who’s no.1 has been all this calendar year.
1. Lionel Messi
Oh, Messi.Some years, Lionel Andres Messi decides “F*** this, I’m going to do it myself”. 2017 is looking like one of those years.
With Barcelona playing the poorest football they have in years, with Luis Suarez firing blanks, with Andres Iniesta injured, he led Barca to the verge of another Liga triumph over Madrid – beating the eventual champions on their home turf, his celebration a mixture of pure, unadulterated passion.
He didn’t quite succeed, but he’s started this domestic season on fire… and he’s been unplayably good in the past couple of months – no one has scored more goals in 2017.
And then, he decided “F*** this” whilst wearing the Argentina jersey as well. The one argument that had always been thrown against him was that he had never turned up for Los Albiceleste but this time around he hoisted his team on his back, ignoring just how average everyone around him was, ignoring just how terrible the administration has been… and carried them across the Andes and into Russia.
Ronaldo was without a doubt the most effective player, but pretty much no one has played quite this well, this consistently, all year….
Leo Messi is just having one of those years.