If there is one thing that is coveted by every footballer, it is to win the Ballon d’Or at least once in their life. However, last 10 years witnessed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi overshadowing every other footballer, to make Ballon d’Or a two-horse race.
Ronaldo and Messi dominated the last decade. They outshined every other footballer on the planet and left no stones unturned. Kaka was the last player to win the Ballon d’Or before this duopoly started and he is no longer an active footballer. That defines and describes the supremacy Cristiano and Messi have.
Ronaldo is 33-year-old, whereas Messi is 31. Both are on the wrong side of their 30s. But, make no mistake, these two incredible footballers have not shown symptoms of a decline.
Ronaldo and Messi were crucial for Real Madrid and FC Barcelona respectively last season. While Ronaldo helped Real Madrid register their third-consecutive UEFA Champions League, his Argentinan counterpart took Barcelona on his shoulders and led them to a domestic double. Messi finished the season as La Liga top scorer and won the European Golden Shoe.
There is no denying that Ronaldo and Messi have incredible match-deciding abilities and can turn the tide. However, the FIFA World Cup 2018 explained a different story. Both Portugal and Argentina were sent home in the Pre-Quarters by Uruguay and France respectively.
However, Ronaldo managed to deliver a decent performance for Portugal in the World Cup. He played a big part in Portugal’s qualification into the pre-quarters. But against Uruguay, he was taken out of the equation by the defenders. Godin and Co. kept Ronaldo silent throughout the 90 minutes and denied him space and time to unleash attacks.
Whereas, Argentina had a topsy-turvy journey in the FIFA World Cup. They started their campaign with a draw against Iceland. It was all but a symptom, Croatia trounced Argentina in the next match, and put them in a vulnerable situation. However, Messi and Co. stepped up against Nigeria to seal a victory and a berth to the Pre-Quarters.
Argentina bowed out of the tournament following their defeat to France in what was an action-packed, end-to-end game. Messi’s movements were restricted by the well-drilled French defence and midfielders.
And the Ballon d’Or has again become a two-horse race! But, unsurprisingly, it is not between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi! It is between Ronaldo and Mbappe, the kid who has taken the world by storm following his incredible, bewitching performance for the world champins France in the FIFA World Cup.
Portugal might have bowed out of the World Cup in the pre-quarters, but Ronaldo was impressive and impactful.
The Portuguese skipper showed his true demeanour in the UEFA Champions League, where his devastating abilities put the opponents to the sword.
Moreover, his ability to inspire others, leadership qualities and of course, an insatiable approach make Ronaldo a front-runner for the Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo had a disappointing first-half to his club campaign this time. The Portuguese talisman failed to inspire Real Madrid and it scuppered their chances of defending the La Liga title.
But, since the turn of the year, Ronaldo has displayed his true demeanour. He took his game into another level as he scored 26 La Liga goals for Real Madrid and assisted another.
He also scored 15 goals for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League and played a bigger role in their third consecutive UEFA Champions League triumph.
Ronaldo has reinvented his game and has turned into a fox-in-the-box species. At Old-Trafford, Ronaldo was a crowd-entertainer, he used to enthral the audience with his incredible step-overs and dribbles, but he only attempted 1.1 dribbles per game in the La Liga, while it was 1.7 in the UEFA Champions League.
He also registered 6.6 shots per game in La Liga matches and 6.3 in the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo also has a decent passing stats. The Portuguese attacker recorded an 81.5 percent passing accuracy and also made 28.1 passes per game.
Whereas, Mbappe was destructive for France in the World Cup, helping them win the tournament. The team didn’t rely on him, but his blistering pace took opponents out of the equation.
France came into this tournament as hot-favourites with an irresistible attacking front. But, they really advanced through and through because of their defensive solidity, but boy Mbappe was phenomenal.
His darting runs down the flanks, those exquisite dribbles, that goal against Croatia in the final to seal France’s victory, thus becoming the second teenager to score in a World Cup, with Pele being the first, the boy has finally arrived in the World stage.
Throughout this World Cup, Mbappe bullied the defenders with his Bolt-like pace. He has arrived at the World stage! Mbappe may be just 19-year-old, but what he has already done is a quite extraordinary stuff.
Akin to Ronaldo, Mbappe also registered an 81.4 per cent passing accuracy and made 25.8 passes per game. However, Mbappe is inferior to Ronaldo in case of shots per game. Mbappe only has 2.7 shots per game ratio, which is far behind Ronaldo’s.
But, he has outclassed Ronaldo in case of dribbles attempted per game. The 19-year-old made 3.3 dribbles per game, which far better than Ronaldo’s.
Mbappe also displayed a decent performance for PSG last season. He appeared in 40 games for PSG and bagged 21 goals. In the FIFA World Cup, he featured for the Les Blues in all six games and hammered four goals.
With more than a decade left in his career, Mbappe is sure to go down in the history one of the best.
He has already excelled at PSG and has played a huge, enormous part in his nation’s World Cup triumph! He has just helped Les Bleus take home their second World Cup in their glorious history.
Once again, Ballon d’Or has become a two-horse race. But, will Mbappe rewrite history, ending Ronaldo’s and Messi’s duopoly? or will Ronaldo emerge triumphant, extending the span of the duopoly for one more year?
Time will tell, let’s wait!