Soccer’s greatest individual award is no other than the prestigious ‘Ballon D’Or’ trophy, awarded at the end of November every season. In recent years, this has mostly been a two-horse-race with Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo usually taking the honors. This year, the debate changed slightly. 2020 saw a lot of criticism, as the Ballon D’Or trophy was cancelled on account of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, all postponed games were eventually caught up and the 2019/2020 season was completed in time for the subsequent season to begin. With all this in mind, Robert Lewandowski was certainly robbed of the trophy last year, but how did he fare this year? Lewandowski has been the top performer in the Bundesliga for years, leading Bayern to title after title, while picking up the top goal-scorer award every season. Messi is a household name, and star performer, but was Lewandowski unfairly overlooked this year?
How It All Played Out
The Ballon D’Or ceremony kicked off on the 30th November in Paris, and many stars were in attendance. Stars included Kylian Mbappe, Luis Suarez, Gianluigi Donnarumma and of course, Messi and Lewandowski. Prior to the event a 30-man shortlist is drawn up, on account of votes cast by experts across the world. Everyone knew it would go down to the wire between the two, but in the end, it wasn’t actually as close as we thought it would be. Debatably, 2019’s Ballon D’Or was a much closer affair, with only 5 points separating Lionel Messi with runner-up, Virgil Van Dijk. This year was a different story. Still not so far away points-wise, Messi finished on 613 to clinch the award, while Lewandowski lagged behind on 580. This was also the first time in ten years that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t place in the top 5. Jorginho takes his place in the top 3 after leading Italy to the Euro 2020 title, as well as Chelsea to the Champions League Final. A notable upset was Kylian Mbappe placing 9th, something that he was visibly unhappy about.
Messi: The Stats
So do Messi’s stats match up with finishing first in the Ballon D’Or 2021? Well in 49 games, Messi scored 40 goals and recorded 16 assists. In addition to this, he created 118 chances for his teammates and won a total of 22 points solely by his goals, 9 of which were the deciding factor for the game. Messi recorded 27 man of the match awards as well as La Liga Top Scorer, Copa Del Rey Golden Ball, Copa America Golden Boot and Copa Del Rey MVP. So in actuality, Messi actually did have a pretty good individual year. Questions are asked over Messi’s winning of the award in regards to Barcelona’s individual season. It is needless to say that Barcelona underperformed last year, never truly challenging for the title and eventually acquiring a 3rd placed finish. What can be seen as impressive however, is to the extent that Messi essentially carried Barcelona in the past year. From playing with Neymar and Suarez, Messi found himself playing with Martin Braithwaite who was at Championship club Middlesbrough not so long ago. Where Real and Atletico strengthened, Barca have only suffered from financial issues. To the point where Messi had to leave the club and sign for French giants PSG. Messi has had a slow start to life in Paris, but we reckon he will show everyone why he is worth the wages.
Lewandowski: The Stats
Perhaps we are all just feeling resentful over how Lewandowski was robbed of his 2020 Ballon D’Or. Let’s take a look at his stats to see if he truly was robbed. Goals-wise, Lewandowski really shone above the rest. Having scored a whopping 54 goals in 45 matches, this is some feat. Not only did he score 14 more goals than Messi, but he also recorded 8 assists, something impressive for a center forward, considering Messi is a playmaker. He recorded fewer man of the match awards than Messi, receiving 13. Perhaps this is due to the superstar team that he finds himself in, where it is more difficult to stand out, where for Messi at Barcelona this was quite easy. Lewandowski helped bring the Bundesliga title home once again and won the awards of Bundesliga, European and CWC top goal-scorer. Unfortunately for Lewandowski, it is probably his country that let him down for these awards. Lewandowski’s Poland crashed out in the group stages at Euro 2020, whereas Messi lead his country to a long-awaited award, the Copa America.
Despite the fact that Lewandowski scored more goals and was a little more consistent, we have to say it seems Messi did deserve the award this year. Lewandowski had a superb season, and he rightfully deserves recognition, but we do believe part of the pent-up anger is at the robbing of Lewandowski’s award from the previous year, something even Messi mentioned in his acceptance speech. We think what swung it for Messi was Argentina’s Copa performance. Something long-criticized about Messi was his lack of international awards, something even rival Cristiano Ronaldo achieved with Portugal in 2016 (Euros). Even though Lewandowski might feel robbed, it was probably the correct decision when considering all factors.