The Ballon d'Or is one of the most prestigious accolades in world football and lifting the golden ball is a dream for any footballer worth his salt. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have maintained a duopoly over the award for over a decade, sharing the spoils between them on 11 occasions.
However, this year, the duo faces stiff competition from a series of performers in Europe and as the Barcelona and Juventus aces are both past their prime, they may find themselves lagging behind other players.
Unlike previous editions when the winner was normally decided between Messi and Ronaldo, the race for the coveted trophy is set to be much more intense and inclusive this year, as there are a host of players who boast insane stats this campaign.
With the race for the Ballon d'Or set to be one of the most invigorating in recent memory, we take a look at the three important factors that could influence the results for this acclaimed prize.
#3 Ronaldo and Messi's 2019-20 campaign with their clubs
A glance at the Ballon d'Or results over the last 12 years indicates that the award has mostly been under Messi and Ronaldo's sway. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that their overall performance for the season will have a huge impact on the final voting results.
Interestingly, they also gave each other a tough competition for the European Golden Shoe throughout the years and managed to win at least a couple of trophies with their clubs every year.
This year, Ronaldo and Messi have fallen behind in the race for the European Golden Shoe as they are currently third and sixth in the rankings. Although they are set for another league title with Juventus and Barcelona respectively, players like Robert Lewandowksi are also expected to win the same with their clubs.
Barcelona were eliminated out of the Copa del Rey in the first week of February, meaning Messi's hopes of a third treble are out of the picture, making it imperative for him to lead his club to a Champions League triumph this term.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, is still in contention for his very first continental treble with Juventus and as we saw the last term, winning Serie A wasn't enough, so ending the season with a treble would be a huge advantage for him.
The success or failure of Messi and Ronaldo this season is, therefore, bound to play a crucial role in determining how the race for this year's Ballon d'Or pans out.
#2 European Golden Shoe
The criteria for selecting the winner of the Ballon d'Or is very well-defined, with the individual and collective performances of the players usually taken into account. The player's overall career also plays a big role to avoid one-season wonders from taking home the coveted trophy.
If history is any indication, the award tends to favour attackers over defenders, not only because they get all the glory on the pitch but also because it is easier to judge their performances based on their goal involvement throughout the season.
The European Golden Shoe, which is bestowed upon the top goalscorer across Europe's top leagues, is one of the most revered honours for a striker and is also one of the achievements that are considered for the Ballon d'Or.
Messi won the Ballon d'Or and European Golden Boot in the same year on three occasions, while Ronaldo achieved the same feat two times. Although winning this goalscoring award is no guarantee for the Ballon d'Or, it sure acts as a stepping stone towards winning it at the end of the year.
The Golden Shoe assumes greater importance this year as Ciro Immobile of Lazio and Lewandowski of Bayern Munich not only lead the goalscoring race but also have strong chances of winning the domestic titles in their respective leagues. This intense new competition will surely add a new dynamic to the Ballon d'Or race this year.
#1 International tournaments in the summer (Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020)
Every footballer dreams of winning trophies at international tournaments as many fans and pundits deem the career of a player who has won everything with his club and nothing with his nation as somewhat blemished. The importance of success with one's national team can, therefore, not be understated and it's no wonder that it is given such high importance by the Ballon d'Or voting committee.
In the years when major international competitions are scheduled, players from the winning team end up higher in the rankings as opposed to when such competitions are not held.
This year, we are going to have not one but two major continental tournaments held in the summer- the 2020 Euro and the Copa America- which will see several big players representing their nations.
Apart from Ronaldo and Messi, we will also have Kylian Mbappe, Lewandowski, Neymar and Van Dijk battling it out at either of the two international competitions this summer. These players are almost guaranteed titles with their clubs and a win with their national team at a major tournament would be the icing on the cake as they build their cases for the Ballon d'Or.
Published 23 Feb 2020, 22:18 IST