The bridesmaids of the Ballon d'Or: Past winners if there was no Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi 3 months ago

The bridesmaids of the Ballon d'Or: Past winners if there was no Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Between 2008 and 2017, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi shared the Ballon d'Or, taking turns between them, leaving a wake of bridesmaids who never became brides behind them.

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Never has a duo conquered the world of football so dominantly than Portugal's Ronaldo and Argentina's Messi, particularly when they played each other regularly in the El Classico.

It was the Barcelona star who got a head start with four straight Ballon d'Ors, but the Real Madrid striker soon caught up and the debate between who was the greater of the two rages on until this day.

Ronaldo Messi Ballon d'Or

However, many great footballers have come and gone in this time; some enjoying seasons that in other eras would have surely saw them lift the prestigious award.

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Those who came second, or quite often third - as the aforementioned superstars would usually take the number one and two mantle - have had the misfortunate of having heir greatest achievements overshadowed.

Ronaldo Messi Ballon d'Or  

Before this era of dominance, it was quite rare that any player would lift the trophy twice in a row, usually only achieving such high levels at the absolute single peak of their careers.

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So we decided to look at a hypothetical world where the crazy consistency of these two outliers just didn't exist, and reveal how the footballing landscape would have looked between 2008 and 2017.

Ronaldo Messi Ballon d'Or  

The unofficial Ballon d'Or winners

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Fernando Torres (2008) - The Spanish striker had the season of his life, etching himself into the hearts of Liverpool fans and creating history by scoring the only goal in the Euro 2008 final to end a trophy-less drought for his nation. Officially he finished third in the Ballon d'Or in 2008 behind you-know-who(s).

Xavi (2009) - The midfield master played a crucial role in helping Barcelona lift the European Cup, and although he actually finished third in the list, Messi may not have taken the number one spot without this man's many assists.

Andrés Iniesta (2010) - A World Cup hero, it was Iniesta's goal in extra time against Holland that capped off an historic win for Spain, bringing home the cup for the very first time in their history.

Ronaldo Messi Ballon d'Or  
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Xavi (2011) - In what could arguably be the greatest football team of all time, the Barcelona side of 2011 would not have been the indestructible force that it was without Xavi pulling the strings in the middle of the park.

Xavi (2012) - Hard to believe that instead of three Ballon d'Ors, the Spaniard has had to settle for none, despite his consistent excellence.

Franck Ribery (2013) - Bayern Munich finally banished the ghosts of their past to win the Champions League during this season, and the Frenchman was at the heart of everything that was so special about this team.

Ronaldo Messi Ballon d'Or  

Thomas Muller (2014) - A key part of Germany's World Cup winning team, and with another trophy-filled season with Bayern Munich under his belt, Muller was putting in the kind of performances that merit this prestigious award.

Neymar (2015) - The Brazilian joined Barcelona to win trophies and take the mantle from Messi. Although it was still his teammate who finished top spot, the flashy trickster secured his goal of winning titles, and played some unbelievable football in the process.

Antoine Griezmann (2016) - The Frenchman was the focal point of his nation's surge to the Euros final and his performances for Athletico Madrid made him a cult hero at the club.

Neymar (2017) - After a personally successful year with Barcelona, Neymar made history as the most expensive transfer in footballing history, making the move to PSG and proving that he was worth the money, getting off to a flying start in France.

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