Biggest losers of the Ballon d'Or awards

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 25.7.2023.


When we talk about Ballon d'Or you have to be one of the most elite players on the planet to be even mentioned in the same sentence as the award. So the use of a word 'loser' in such context is weird. Yet it's hard not to see that some players have had their fair share of bad luck when it comes to the award.

This concept is also worthwhile exploring because the prize is awarded, not won by reaching a certain palpable metric. Hence, there is always a degree that the players aren't the ones solely to blame.

Biggest Ballon d'Or award loser - Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski

Arguably the third-best player over the course of the last decade, yet Robert Lewandowski didn't get the individual accolade to show for it. Most notably, Robert Lewandowski got the moniker of THE biggest Ballon d'Or loser because he was poised to win it for the year 2020. Yet the Covid-19 pandemic caused the football world to shift and France Football, the magazine behind the award, decided not to award it that year.

A decision mostly made because Ligue 1, France's top division, was one of the few that fully cancelled its season. Domestic bias was too strong in the moment because of high hopes for Kylian Mbappe or Neymar to win the award for the French league. A feather that has been missing in their cap since 1991 when Jean-Pierre Papin won it for Marseille. The only time an award has gone to a player in the league France Football was primarily covering.

Back in 2020, the award was still given for the efforts put in throughout the calendar year. Throughout it, Robert Lewandowski scored 32 goals in 26 league matches. Overall, he bagged 45 goals and 15 assists over the course of 39 club games for Bayern Munich!

Actually, RL9 won the European Golden Boot in the 2020/2021 and the 2021/2022 seasons.

To make Robert's tribulations with the award even worse, in 2021, Lionel Messi just edged him out in voting with 613 votes compared to the Poles' 580. The Argentinian has finally won the Copa America with his national team at the time, combined with the Ligue 1 title, it was enough for Leo to overcome Lewa amongst the voters.

Even though RL9 scored 56 goals and made six assists in the 45 club games of the year. For comparison, Messi had 33 goals and 10 assists with PSG.

Aged 34, and now with Barcelona, RL9 still has a chance to win the Ballon d'Or yet his weaker national team will hardly ever tip the scales in his favor. But with a possible treble for Barca, nothing is impossible for the 2023/2024 season.

Other biggest Ballon d’Or losers

Virgil Van Dijk

Virgil Van Dijk could be regarded as one of the biggest losers of the Ballon d'Or competition as in 2019 he lost out to a tight margin. Messi had 686 votes, VVD got 679. A mere eight votes short of becoming the first defender to win it since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Yet that is not the tightest of margins, Brazilian Ronaldo lost out in 1996 to Matthias Sammer with the vote tally reading 144:143 for the Borussia Dortmund midfielders.

One way of looking at the biggest losers is to see who got second place the most times.

Unsurprisingly, CR7 was the first one behind in six runnings (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018). Once falling short to Kaka, once to his teammate Luka Modric, and four times to Messi. Leo Messi was second-placed in the voting five times, (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) - always behind CR7.



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