Over the past 10 years, when it comes to the Ballon d’Or, there has only been one question asked, Messi or Ronaldo? However, could this all be about to change, as Neymar moved away from Barcelona and Messi to try and break the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly?
Ever since Kaká won the award, and was named the best footballer in the world in 2007, it has been a two-horse-race between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or and now both are tied on 5 a piece after Ronaldo’s win earlier this month.
Although, as the two have now entered their 30’s could another name be about to step up and challenge the two greatest of all time?
The player that I am talking about is the world’s most expensive footballer of all time, Neymar.
While I think that it is an undisputed fact that Messi and Ronaldo have both been better players than PSG’s number 10 in the past, Neymar’s shown this season that he should seriously be considered as a direct rival to these two.
Neymar already has 9 goals and 7 assists for PSG in Ligue 1 and has added 6 goals and 3 assists in the Champions League thus far. He’s unquestionably taken his game to new heights as he’s become a more complete player – creating, dribbling, and scoring at ridiculous rates.
He’s currently the highest ranked player in Europe’s top leagues, according to WhoScored, just ahead of a certain Lionel Messi, and was ranked as the very best player of the Champions League group stages. Averaging 1 goal per game, 0.5 assists per game, and a ridiculous 6.3 dribbles per game as well as 3.3 key passes per game, Neymar is having an influence on games akin to a prime Leo Messi.
And as the French giants already look to have the Ligue 1 wrapped up for the fifth time in six years, as they sit nine points clear of second-place Lyon, it means that in the second half of the season they can look to draw their attention elsewhere, and to the competition that everybody at the club is craving to win – the Champions League.
In previous years, it has often been the case that the team who wins the Champions League, ends up with their star man lifting the Ballon d’Or come the end of that specific calendar year. The Champions League is essentially when the award is won and it’s when you need your star man to step up and prove he truly is the best. It’s something Messi and Ronaldo have done time and time again, and considering that Neymar’s PSG have drawn Cristiano’s Real Madrid in the Round of 16, Neymar has a massive opportunity to show that he’s ready to take CR7’s place at the top of the Ballon d’Or podium.
But, this year there’s another huge factor to consider — the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It will have big implications on the Ballon d’Or because a victory in Russia for any nation, could easily see their stand-out player receive the award as it’s an enormous showpiece and history has shown that a few good weeks at a World Cup can propel you to the Ballon d’Or crown.
This bodes well for Neymar’s prospects according to the bookmakers as Brazil is the second favorite to win in Russia and PSG are currently the second favorites to win the Champions League (despite drawing Real Madrid in the Round of 16). And with the way Neymar’s been playing for both Brazil and PSG these are two titles that you’d expect Neymar to contend for.
Winning either of these awards would certainly make Neymar a strong contender for the Ballon d’Or, however if he was to win both, with the way that the competition is run nowadays, it would surely put it beyond doubt that if he also maintains a high level of performance, he would be crowned the best player in the world.
It is a well-known fact that the reason Neymar opted to leave for Paris in the summer was to ‘step out of Messi’s shadow,’ as the Brazilian feels that way he has a better chance of achieving one of his main goals, which is, in fact, the Ballon d’Or.
One player that Neymar certainly has on his side and is looking to help him win the most prestigious individual award of football, is PSG teammate Kylian Mbappé, who upon arrival to the club, addressed the fact that he wants to help Neymar when asked about his own chances of winning the award by Le Parisien.
“No. I already have a team-mate who can win it. So, individually, my goal is to score a lot of goals and help Neymar,”
“He can help us raise a lot of trophies, so we have to take care of him.
“I will do everything to help him win this Ballon d’Or. It would make me happy, if I could help him like that.”
However, it should be noted that Mbappé is another one that will be looking to break the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly. He’s been in scintillating form for PSG, especially in the CL, and if he thrives in both the CL and the WC with France then he could genuinely have a claim for the BdOr as well. He finished 7th this year and is only getting better with each passing game.
Ultimately, while there are many differing opinions about Neymar, and how controversial the Ballon d’Or is, if you look at the awarding of it in recent years, it is clear that 2018 could be the year that both Messi and Ronaldo miss out if the Brazilian can step up for both club and country.