Ballon d'Or: Four players who would've won the award in a world without Ronaldo and Messi
It is a fact well known that the Ballon d'Or has been dominated by two players for the last decade or so - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Until 2018, the last player to have won the prestigious award beyond the talismanic duo was Kaka in 2007.
The duopoly held over football's most coveted individual prize was broken when Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric was presented with the award in December last year. The Croatian was voted the best player of the year in recognition of his contributions to Los Blancos' third consecutive Champions League triumph and his exploits during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Football fans know that a host of footballers were simply unlucky to have played in an era in which Ronaldo and Messi redefined the heights of the game. These players have enjoyed outstanding campaigns that, unfortunately, fell short in comparison to the other-worldly statistics of the two five-time Ballon d'Or winners.
In no particular order, we take a look at four such players who were denied the Ballon d'Or simply because they couldn't beat the outstanding efforts of Messi and Ronaldo:
Honourable mentions: Fernando Torres (2008), Wesley Sneijder (2010)
#4 Andrés Iniesta (2010)
It's not very often that you see France Football apologising to a player for overlooking him for the Ballon d'Or. The unbelievable happened in 2018 when the reputed magazine apologised to Andres Iniesta for their infamous snub in 2010, which saw him lose the award to teammate Lionel Messi.
Despite a year of recovery from a thigh injury, Iniesta played a pivotal role in Barcelona's domestic success, pulling strings in the middle of the park alongside Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets. The Catalan giants went on to win the 2009-10 La Liga title with a record of 99 points. The club also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League before being defeated by Jose Mourinho's resilient Inter Milan side.
While his contributions to his club were commendable, it was his exploits with Spain that earned him a place on the Ballon d'Or podium. Following La Roja's defeat in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup, it was Iniesta who commanded the side to a string of wins, beating Portugal, Paraguay, and Germany as they made their way to the final.
The Barcelona legend was named the Man of the Match in the final against the Netherlands after scoring a sublime extra-time goal to help Spain lift the World Cup.
Iniesta finished second on the podium that year, ahead of Xavi and behind winner Messi.