Lionel Messi has been named the world's best player EIGHT times, but who would have won the Ballon d'Or if he didn't exist? Mail Sport looks at which stars would bagged the prize

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Lionel Messi is truthful intertwined pinch nan Ballon d'Or's history that he is synonymous pinch it.

Not only has he taken nan gong location connected a record eight occasions, but he has travel 2nd successful its rankings 5 times and 3rd once. 

Since his first introduction successful 2007, he has been successful nan apical 3 14 retired of a imaginable 16 times. 


Through each those years, world shot has seen outstanding talents denied honours successful nan protector of his brilliance - and we're not conscionable talking astir Cristiano Ronaldo.

What would nan Ballon d'Or person looked for illustration without Messi? Mail Sport explores nan figures who came adjacent to higher honours but were blocked by La Pulga. 

Lionel Messi erstwhile again lifted nan Ballon d'Or aft winning nan World Cup pinch Argentina 

Winners 

Cristiano Ronaldo - 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015 

Cristiano Ronaldo would person 9 Ballon d'Ors were it not for his awesome rival. 

In nan years erstwhile he came 2nd to Messi, CR7 scored a whopping 200 goals, including a career-best 61 successful 2014/15. 

Those seasons saw him triumph large nine honours, arsenic good - a Premier League title pinch Manchester United successful 2008/09 and a La Liga title pinch Real Madrid successful 2011/12. 

The Champions League is often nan kingmaker if there's not an world tourney on. 

Ronaldo won 3 of his 5 Ballon d'Ors connected nan backmost of successful Champions League campaigns, while successful 3 of nan 4 years he came second, Messi won Europe's astir wanted nine trophy. 

Cristiano Ronaldo came 2nd to Messi connected 4 occasions - usually home honours weren't capable to return nan gong 

Andres Iniesta - 2010 

On paper, Andres Iniesta's 2009/10 play was statistically unremarkable. Five goals and 1 assistance while injuries brought his nine run to an early finish. 

But those stats don't get anyplace adjacent to showing nan majesty of Iniesta, whose scope of passing and activity ethic stood him alongside Xavi arsenic 1 of nan world's champion midfielders. 

Barcelona won La Liga pinch 99 points and that summertime of 2010 is simply a typical 1 successful football's corporate memory. 

Iniesta was nan lynchpin successful Spain's World Cup-winning midfield and inspired them done close-fought encounters, arsenic La Roja won each of their knockout games 1-0. 

The midfielder scored nan winning extremity successful stoppage clip against Netherlands to seal World Cup triumph and claimed Man of nan Match.

His shape was truthful bully successful 2009/10 that, years later, mag France Football apologised for not presenting him pinch nan grant that year. 

Andres Iniesta scored Spain's victor successful nan 2010 World Cup last against nan Netherlands

Virgil van Dijk - 2019 

So indomitable was Virgil van Dijk successful 2018/19 that he was nan first defender to beryllium successful nan Ballon d'Or apical 3 since Fabio Cannavaro won it successful 2006. 

That year, he scooped up nan UEFA Player of nan Season, Premier League Player of nan season, PFA Players' Player of nan Season, and a spot successful nan FIFPRO World 11. 

Across 50 games, he was nan stone that allowed Liverpool to triumph nan Champions League and travel 2nd successful nan English apical formation connected 97 points.

There was talk astir nan Dutchman being nan champion Premier League defender ever and there's nary denying that his presence, leadership, and reliability transformed Liverpool.

He was besides a tidy contributor astatine nan different end, chipping successful pinch six goals crossed nan season. 

Unfortunately for him, he mislaid retired to nan acold much fashionable Messi contempt helping to dump Barcelona retired successful nan Champions League semi-finals pinch a roaring 4-0 triumph astatine Anfield. 

That year, Messi scored 45 goals and won nan La Liga title.  

Virgil van Dijk was nan first defender successful nan apical 3 since Fabio Cannavaro successful 2006

2021 - Robert Lewandowski 

Had Messi not won nan Copa America successful 2021, there's an overwhelming emotion that Robert Lewandowski would person a Ballon d'Or trophy successful his cabinet. 

He had arguably been robbed successful 2020, erstwhile nary grant was handed retired because of Covid-19. In 2019/20, he scored 55 goals to thief Bayern Munich triumph nan Treble.

He backed that up pinch different 48 goals and 4 trophies successful nan pursuing season, scoring from each types of positions. He was a joyousness to watch and looked arsenic if he would beryllium nan first out-and-out striker to triumph nan Ballon d'Or since Andriy Shevchenko successful 2004. 

It was not to be. Seemingly retired of consolation, FIFA created nan 'Striker of nan Year category' successful 2021 and gave that to Lewandowski. Short of nan Ballon d'Or, astatine slightest he could person a caller made-up grant pinch nary history. 

Messi was awesome that year, scoring 38 goals and winning nan Copa America, but for galore fans, Lewandowski deserved a victory. 

Should Robert Lewandowski person had 2 Ballon d'Ors aft scoring 93 goals successful 2 seasons?

2023 - Erling Haaland 

Has location ever been a much complete number 9 than Erling Haaland astatine specified a young age? 

Pace, power, clincal finishing, impeccable timing, cleanable movement. Haaland is relentless. 

Fifty-two goals was nan haul he brought to Manchester City arsenic they won nan Treble and he revolutionised Pep Guardiola's system, which had antecedently operated without a full-on striker. 

Sure, he didn't triumph nan World Cup last for illustration Messi did. The Argentine's shape successful Qatar was magnificent and he was nan difference-maker pinch 2 goals against France successful nan final. 

However, a full of 21 goals, 20 assists, and a Ligue 1 trophy arsenic nan only awesome title nether his loop successful 2022/23 begs nan mobility - was Messi's triumph this twelvemonth calved retired of nostalgia aliases honorable comparison pinch Haaland? 

Erling Haaland won nan Treble and scored 52 goals past season. What much could he person done?

The players denied a higher spot connected nan podium 

Six players would person travel 2nd aliases 3rd were Messi not around, and immoderate of them are a blast from nan past. 

Fernando Torres - 2008 (came third)

There was a clip erstwhile Fernando Torres was a scintillating striker, moreover if memories of his clip connected English shores are sullied by his Chelsea spell. 

In 2007/08, he scored 33 goals for Liverpool and fostered an electrical narration pinch Steven Gerrard to declare 3rd successful nan standings down Ronaldo and Messi. 

He besides won nan Euros pinch Spain, but it would person been difficult for him to dislodge nan world's very champion aft nary home trophies. 

2013 - Franck Ribery (came third)

This was 1 of nan astir arguable Ballon d'Or votes ever, arsenic Ronaldo claimed 27.99 per cent of nan vote, Messi 24.72 per cent and Ribery 23.36 per cent.

The silky left-footed Ribery had led Bayern Munich to a Treble and provided nan assistance for Arjen Robben's victor successful nan Champions League final. 

However, his 11 goals and 18 assists were not capable to rather seal him nan apical gong, moreover if it won his UEFA's Player of nan Year. 

Fernando Torres won nan 2008 Euros pinch Spain and scored 33 goals for Liverpool successful 2007/08

Franck Ribery was integral to Bayern Munich's 2013 Treble but mislaid retired successful 1 of nan astir arguable votes successful history

Manuel Neuer (centre) had 1 of nan best-ever goalkeeping seasons successful 2013/14 

2014 - Manuel Neuer (came third)

Only 3 goalkeepers this period person been successful nan apical 3 for nan Ballon d'Or, and aft winning nan World Cup, Manuel neuer deserved to beryllium among them. 

The sweeper-keeper won World Goalkeeper of nan Year, World Cup Golden Glove, and a German double.

However, his 25 cleanable sheets and 34 conceded successful 51 nine appearances weren't capable to disrupt nan hegemony of Ronaldo and Messi. 

 2016 - Antoine Griezmann (came third) 

The 2015/16 play was a superb 1 for Antoine Griezmann arsenic he scored 32 goals and Atletico Madrid accured 88 points successful nan league... only to decorativeness 3rd down Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

Indeed, it was their accustomed representatives who classed higher than nan Frenchman that year, but it was his bets goalscoring season.

There was besides nan mini matter of reaching nan European Championships last pinch France, though they mislaid 1-0 to Portugal via Eder's melodramatic goal.  

Antoine Griezmann helped France triumph nan 2016 Euros but couldn't execute home honours pinch Atletico Madrid

Neymar enjoyed a stellar last play astatine Barcelona but ne'er reached nan aforesaid heights astatine PSG

Didier Drogba came 4th successful nan Ballon d'Or rankings successful 2007 aft 33 goals for Chelsea

2017 - Neymar (came third) 

It feels a flimsy disservice to Neymar's imaginable that he has only ever travel successful nan apical 3 for nan Ballon d'Or connected 2 occasions. 

In 2017, he reached that rarefied aerial for a 2nd clip aft 20 goals and 26 assists successful his last play astatine Barcelona.

From location he went to PSG to go a main man but ne'er kicked connected and has been outshined by Kylian Mbappe and... Messi.

2007 - Didier Drogba (came fourth) 

On his day, Didier Drogba was unplayable, and he happened to person a batch of days this play arsenic he scord 33 goals. 

Oddly enough, this was 1 of nan seasons wherever he didn't triumph nan convention aliases Champions League pinch Chelsea, but he did triumph England's 2 main home cups and Chelsea were successful nan moving for a quadruple until May 1. 

Kaka, Ronaldo, and Messi vanished supra nan Ivory Coast international, but there's nary denying his power nether Jose Mourinho. 

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