Prior to 2010, two major awards were given out in the world of men’s international soccer: the Ballon d’Or, or Golden Ball, and the FIFA World Player of the Year. The Ballon d’Or was awarded to the player of the year in Europe, while the FIFA World Player of the Year, as the name states, was awarded to the best player in the world that year.
In 2010, the two awards were merged, and the FIFA Ballon d’Or was created. The new award covers the scope of the entire world.
Since its creation, only two players have won this award: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The two are widely accepted as the best players in the world. It is frequently debated which of the two is better, but no one else has entered the conversation of the best player in the world in many, many years.
Even before the FIFA Ballon d’Or was created, the two took both awards in the final years of their existence, with Ronaldo winning both in 2008 and Messi taking both in 2009. They last player besides the two to win was Kaká. In total, Messi has won the award 5 times, including receiving the award this past month for the 2015 year, and Ronaldo has collected the award 3 times.
How much longer will this streak last? They have won the award 8 years in a row, with no other player in the world coming close to interrupting the streak. The third place player in this year’s ballot, Neymar, only received 7 percent of the votes, while Messi won with 41 percent and Ronaldo was second with 27 percent.
For the next few years, there is no foreseeable end to the streak of dominance of the soccer world that the two have shown. Ronaldo is 30, and Messi is 28; each have many more years of play ahead of them.
At this point, I feel safe predicting that their streak of earning the highest individual award in the sport of soccer will reach ten years. Predicting which of the two will win is another issue, but I don’t see Neymar closing the gap enough before the two are a few years closer to retiring from the sport.
Messi himself has stated that he believes Neymar will win the award one day, which I agree with entirely. Neymar is a young player that is still getting better, while already being in the top tier of players in the world. I would not be surprised if Neymar wins the Ballon d’Or multiple times, but I can’t see him pushing Messi or Ronaldo off the top for another few years. The two have exhibited a combined dominance of being so far ahead of the rest of the sport that is rarely seen in sports today, and will continue that excellence until their final days of playing.