Since it merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2010 the stranglehold over this award has been largely monopolised by a diminutive Argentinian who has continued to surprise and mesmerise since his debut as a 17 year old in 2004.
Lionel Messi is still only 26 years old and we would be kidding ourselves if we thought this was the end of his success at Barcelona but more pertinently individually despite being usurped for the 2013 Ballon d’Or.
The nearly man for two of the last three seasons has been the precocious, ex Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo. His individual dual with Messi – largely heightened by the hysteria from the media, has captivated football fans worldwide as both players fight for the La Liga title and FIFA’s most prestigious individual award.
In past years Barcelona’s number 10 Messi has come out on top, but with 55 goals in 55 games over the 2012/2013 season, his heroics in single-handedly dragging Portugal to the World Cup in that enthralling game with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s Sweden – as well as his storming to start to this campaign has all contributed to perhaps Ronaldo’s biggest achievement to date.
His last win was in 2008, but with no sign of Lionel Messi’s form wavering, it seemed like a huge upheaval if anyone was to topple the metaphorical giant of world football off his perch.
There should be little complaint that the Portuguese didn’t justify his win, however some critics may point to Lionel Messi’s long term absence with injury was the main reason Ronaldo could flourish with little competition. However, the appearance of Franck Ribéry was a welcome respite with Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta or Xavi usually making up the ‘podium’.
As Bayern Munich stormed to a unprecedented treble last season under the guidance of the newly crowned FIFA World Coach of the Year Jupp Heynckes it was only right for a player who has been instrumental to this success to be in the line-up this year. Ribéry beat both Messi and Ronaldo to the European award earlier in the year and some may argue if the award is about how much you contribute to your team’s success, then the 30 year old Frenchman should have been acknowledged even more.
Nonetheless the visibly emotional Ronaldo was overwhelmed with this award after finally breaking Messi’s stronghold on the award, and not many would disagree that it was his time to shine!
Despite this, the likes of Ronaldo and Ribéry in their late 20’s/early 30’s will soon step aside for a new wave of hungry successors who will be looking to challenge Lionel Messi for the crown.
I have drawn up a list of five candidates who may have a chance of doing this by the year 2020.
This 20 year old midfielder was the centre of an intense amount of hype when he was at Manchester United. Despite being brought through gradually by Sir Alex Ferguson it seemed as if Pogba thought he was ready for first team football and duly declined a contract with the Manchester side and penned a deal with Juventus in 2012.
The Frenchman has since flourished in his new role having established himself in the heart of the Old Lady’s midfield. He has already won two successive Super Coppa’s and a Serie A title last season.
This led to his nomination and eventual victory in FIFA’s Golden Boy in December 2013 ahead of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Julian Draxler and Raphael Varane.
If the 20 year old can continue to this staggering rise, then the Ballon d’Or might not be too far away.
Mario Götze – Bayern Munich
21 year old Mario Götze faced the wrath of Borrusia Dortmund fans as he fled the Westfalenstadion for Bavaria in the Summer of 2013. Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp did admit “He [Götze] is a Pep Guardiola favourite.”
During his time at Dortmund he formed an exciting partnership with compatriot Marco Reus with Franz Beckenbauer declaring; “…as a classic duo there is nobody better than the prolific Reus and Götze.”
This player has widely been recognised as a ”wonderkid” for some time now and now under the guidance of ex Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in Munich, his potential has no limits. He perhaps best represents the new surge of diminutive German players emerging post the débâcle of Euro 2000.
After over-coming an injury at the start of his Bayern career, Götze is now fully fit and will be pivotal to Guardiola’s plans if he is to try and match Jupp Heynckes in winning the treble this season.
Raphaël Varane – Real Madrid
A defender hasn’t won this award since Italian World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro swept up the gong in 2006. I’m not saying Raphaël Varane must captain his nation to glory on the World stage but it would require something special for a defender to take home the trophy when the game is blossoming with attacking talent and yet more attacking talent.
Raphaël Varane was nominated for FIFA’s Golden Boy at the end of 2013 which is somewhat recognition for what he has achieved in his embryonic career to date. Since leaving Lens for Madrid he has flourished and established himself in the centre of defence alongside either Sergio Ramos or Pepe. He has drawn admirers for his uncompromising style of play, and rarely puts a foot wrong. The 20 year old has been described by Spanish paper AS as ‘Real Madrid’s Lion’.
Ever since his arrival he has grown in stature and will almost certainly be part of the French National Squad for the World Cup in Brazil and here-after who knows, maybe captaining his country to World Cup glory in Qatar 2022.
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
No British player has ever won this award since Michael Owen in 2001 with the likes of Germany and Holland monopolising the top honours in its 58 year history.
However, this Welshman’s meteoric rise to stardom has already amazed many and now he is on the right stage to continue his growth.
A world record transfer to Real Madrid on the last day of the 2013 transfer window just prolonged what seemed to all onlookers as the inevitable. The British press reported the figure at £85.3 million surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million fee.
Despite the price tag and the question of whether Bale could manage the added pressure and expectation playing under increased scrutiny, the 24 year old has fitted in seamlessly; forming a lethal partnership with Ronaldo and striker Karim Benzema.
If any Brit is going to break the thirteen year wait, then the ex-Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur winger may just have the best chance, and if he carries on his early form in Madrid – not many will disagree.
This choice may come as a surprise to some, maybe believing Meyer’s Schalke 04 team-mate Julian Draxler is perhaps a more viable contender.
I am not denying the latter doesn’t have the potential to become one of the world’s best, but in Meyer, Schalke have another starlet on their books.
His career really catapulted after Lewis Holtby was sold to Tottenham Hotspur, allowing the adolescent to see some game time in the first team.
He was ushered into the team by boss Horst Heldt last season, but it’s this campaign in which Meyer has really begun to establish himself. 14 appearances has rewarded the teenager with 3 goals as he slots into the attacking midfield birth which has now been vacated by Draxler due to injury.
This extended spell in the team could be the time for Meyer to showcase his talent to a wider audience, the extra responsibility on the 18 year old could be the making or breaking of the player.
However rest assured it would be no surprise if you see this boy hitting the headlines before too long.
That’s it for Charlie’s list of five future potential Ballon d’Or winners, do you agree with his choices? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to follow us on twitter.