Karim Benzema’s heroic exploits for Real Madrid in 2021–2022 earned him the 2022 Men’s Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual prize in European football.
As both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi recorded terribly disappointing finishes in the ballot, the results of this year’s awards, which were announced at Monday’s gala, also signaled something of a sea change. Both players had been fixtures at the Ballon d’Or polls for 15 years.
Prior to 2022, at least one or both of the players had been in the top three of the ballot every year since 2007, but Messi failed to place among the top 30 while Ronaldo dropped to 20th position, his lowest finish since 2005.
The first time Ronaldo and Messi were voted into the top three for the Ballon d’Or was in 2007, when they, respectively, came in second and third place behind victor Kaka.
Then, Ronaldo rose to prominence by winning his first Ballon d’Or in 2008, ushering in a protracted period of dominance for both himself and his competitor as they went on to split the following 10 prizes.
Here, we compare each player’s Ballon d’Or results year by year, starting with Ronaldo’s first-place victory nearly 14 years ago.
2008 – Ronaldo was the first of the pair to win the Ballon d’Or when he was 23 years old and in the middle of his first season with Manchester United. The Portuguese forward outperformed Messi in the voting with 42 goals during the 2007–08 season as United won the Premier League and Champions League.
2009 – At the age of 22, Messi won his first Ballon d’Or following a Treble-winning season that concluded with him scoring in Barca’s victory over Ronaldo’s United in the Champions League final. He accomplished something Diego Maradona, a legend of the Albiceleste, had never done: he became the first player from Argentina to be declared the winner.
2010 – As a result of Spain’s victory in the World Cup over the summer, Barcelona swept the 2010 honors, with Messi winning his second Ballon d’Or and fellow La Masia alums Andres Iniesta and Xavi taking the other podium spots. In contrast, Ronaldo came in a distant sixth place, behind Diego Forlan and Wesley Sneijder.
2011 – It was no surprise when Messi won the Ballon d’Or for the third time in a row after leading Barcelona to a fearsome quintuple — LaLiga, Champions League, Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup, and Club World Cup — in the span of a single year with 43 goals and 21 assists in 47 games.
2012 – As Messi became the first player in football history to win four straight Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo once more had to settle for coming in second place to him. Messi then presented his record-breaking trophy to the crowd while looking absolutely stunning in a stunning polka dot tuxedo.
2013 – After earning his second Ballon d’Or in 2013, Ronaldo was able to make up ground lost to Messi and Franck Ribery. Ronaldo’s prolific Real Madrid striker defeated both of them to the prize by tallying 55 goals in 55 games for Los Blancos in the 2012–13 campaign.
2014 – Ronaldo’s emphatic victory over Messi in the final poll allowed him to achieve his hat treble of Ballon d’Or awards at the age of 29. The Portuguese great, who finished 2013–14 with 51 goals in 47 games, also prevented Real Madrid from winning “La Decima” (the club’s 10th European Cup victory), by scoring a Champions League record-tying 17 goals.
2015 – After winning five championships with Barcelona (including LaLiga and the Champions League) and producing 52 goals and 26 assists in 61 games for club and country in 2014, Messi reclaimed the top spot on the poll in 2015.
2016 – Then, the pendulum swung back the next year when Ronaldo won the award in 2016 to begin a three-year run of consistent Champions League triumph. The 31-year-old added three more goals to his impressive record as Portugal won the 2016 Euros after scoring 54 goals in 2015-16 to help Real Madrid repeat as European champions.
2017 – By winning the fifth Ballon D’or of his career in 2017, Ronaldo equaled Messi’s record by scoring 42 goals in Real Madrid’s 2016–17 LaLiga and Champions League double-winning season (2016-17).
2018 – Luka Modric shook the Ballon d’Or scene by squeezing into the picture and becoming the first player other than Ronaldo and Messi to win the trophy for a whole decade after performing for both Real Madrid and Croatia.
2019 – After scoring 51 goals and dishing out 19 assists (a whopping total of 70 goal involvements) in 49 matches during the 2018–19 season, the campaign in which he won his final LaLiga title as a Barcelona player, Messi pushed ahead once more by claiming his sixth career Ballon d’Or in 2019. Virgil van Dijk, who earned the silver medal for his heroics for Liverpool during their Champions League-winning season, stood between Messi and Ronaldo on the podium.
2021 – Messi extended his record in 2021 after leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain. However, many fans were surprised by Messi’s seventh Ballon d’Or, believing that Bayern Munich’s unstoppable goal machine Robert Lewandowski should have won the prize after being cruelly denied in 2020 when he helped the German giants win the Champions League.
2022 – Is the illustrious Ballon d’Or duopoly between Messi and Ronaldo now over? The 2022 Ballon d’Or results seem bad for the once-ruling duo after Ronaldo barely made it into the bottom third of the final 30-man standings while his Argentine counterpart completely missed the cut.
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