For the first time in history, the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony was cancelled this year.
A statement said there had been a “lack of a sufficiently level playing field” in the current circumstances – but we did have FIFA’s ‘The Best’ awards to sink our teeth into.
Robert Lewandowski was crowned Best Men’s Player for 2020, beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the prestigious accolade.
Messi has not been at his best this year, but it remains a considerable feat to break that duopoly. The Bayern Munich striker was recognised for his role in guiding the Bavarians to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble.
Lewandowski has got off to another flyer in the 2020/21 campaign, scoring 18 goals in 16 appearances in all competitions.
All the indications were that had the Ballon d’Or taken place, he would have been right up there in the running. It would have been his sixth nomination.
That, in itself, is some achievement. Yet it pales in significance compared to Ronaldo and Messi’s nominations.
In the absence of this year’s award, GIVEMESPORT have been trawling through the archives and indulging in a bit of nostalgia at the best players of the 21st century.
We’ve totalled up the nominations for every year – including those who didn’t receive any votes. Here are the 11 players who featured most often:
T8. Wayne Rooney – (8 nominations)
T8. Didier Drogba – (8 nominations)
T8. Neymar – (8 nominations)
T8. Iker Casillas (8 nominations)
T5. Thierry Henry (9 nominations)
T5. Karim Benzema (9 nominations)
T5. Samuel Eto’o (9 nominations)
T3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10 nominations)
T3. Gianluigi Buffon (10 nominations)
2. Lionel Messi (14 nominations)
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (15 nominations)
Of course, it goes without saying that nominations are one thing and awards quite another.
Ronaldo may boast being shortlisted once more than Messi, but that’s partly a virtue of his greater age.
The Argentine beats him when it comes to the all-important Golden Balls by six to five.
The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gianluigi Buffon have shown remarkable consistency to be nominated 10 times apiece. The legendary Serie A duo can both feel a little hard-done-by never to have scooped the prize themselves.
Honourable mentions go to the quartet who were nominated seven times but didn’t quite make it onto our list – Andres Iniesta, David Beckham, Xavi and Zinedine Zidane.
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