We are not at the scandalous levels of 2010 but we are close: Lionel Messi wins his seventh Ballon d’Or in a year, except for the interlude in Copa América, where he was not the best of all. And if eleven years ago there were several players who could define themselves as “mugged” (Iniesta, Xavi e Sneijder) in this edition is Robert Lewandowski to cry out for revenge.
That the flea is the number one in the world, alone or in cohabitation with Cristiano Ronaldo, it doesn’t rain. A size that has also affected the vote for some years now. There was a Golden Ball that had its rules, questionable or not, but substantially consistent over the years: the best of the year was awarded, the discriminating factors were the most important event in that calendar year. World and European Championships in even years, Champions in odd years. Hence the victories of Paolo Rossi, Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro. Until 2010 where being world champion is no longer enough. The beginning of the new decade is the first example of how the rules were artfully changed, assigning the title to the Argentine, unable to score a single goal at the World Cup in South Africa but who weighed the 58 goals in the calendar year with Barcelona, champion of Spain but ousted in the Champions League by Inter triplet. With all due respect to Sneijder, who was a driving force of the Nerazzurri and not only: with his 5 goals he brought the Netherlands one step away from being world champions. Title won by Spain, thanks to Iniesta’s goal, another one that would have deserved the award and that ended his career without.
If the same criterion had been applied in 2021, there would have been no doubts about Robert Lewandowski, 50 goals in 41 games and able in the last Bundesliga to shatter a record that seemed unparalleled, that of Gerd Muller’s 40 goals in a championship. The Pole managed to score 41 in 29 games. Paris Saint-Germain got sideways in the Champions League, at the end of an epic double challenge in which his absence due to injury weighed heavily. And it matters little that Messi, in the Champions League, missed a very heavy penalty against PSG, putting the tombstone on his dreams of qualification. The Copa América, which has never had a specific weight on the Ballon d’Or, was enough to convince the voters to give yet another Ballon d’Or to the Argentine.
The disappointment of the Pole, “snatched” by a sacrosanct Golden Ball in 2020, is evident and in this we must acknowledge Lionel Messi for having recognized how his rival deserved recognition. The impression, once more, is that the Messi-CR7 duopoly will no longer emerge regardless. And that Modric’s victory in 2018 was just an exception. Already the following year, when it seemed made for Virgil van Dijk, symbol of Liverpool’s European champion, the jury expressed itself by assigning the award to Messi. The only one able to counter him in recent years has been Cristiano Ronaldo, but since the last prize won in 2017 not even the Portuguese can keep up.