Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the Ballon d'Or for over a decade, winning it 11 times in 12 years between them, but what if they were banned?
There's been little doubt since 2008 about which players were the best in the world, as Messi and Ronaldo completely changed our perception of what a good season was.
The spell from 2008 to 2019 saw the pair break pretty much every record there was to break and win pretty much every competition and accolade that they could.
Messi won six Ballon d'Or titles in that time with Ronaldo just the one behind him and for the first 10 years no one else got a sniff, until Luka Modric won in 2018.
There were years when people felt that others should have won and ESPN took a look who the players with the most votes behind the pair was in every year from those 11 years.
Ballon d'Or winners if Ronaldo or Messi never played football :fire: pic.twitter.com/t5gK8yKJzw- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 13, 2021
The period from 2009-2012 when Andres Iniesta and Xavi would have won the awards, were it not for the other two, shows how dangerous their trio with Messi was.
Iniesta's 'victory' in 2010 is only one of two occasions where someone not named Messi or Ronaldo actually finished in the top two when the other won, with Virgil van Dijk's runner's up spot in 2019 the other.
The Spanish midfielder scored the winner in the World Cup that year and many felt he should have won it anyway, although he wasn't the only contender last year.
Wesley Sneijder was at the forefront of Inter's Treble win, which included a win over Iniesta's Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, and helped Netherlands to the World Cup final, before losing to Spain.
Bayern Munich pair Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer were also conidered unlucky not to win the Ballon d'Or in 2013 and 14 respectively.
Ribery was important to Bayern's Treble in 2013 and helped them win the FIFA Club World Cup whilst Neuer was extremely important in Germany's World Cup win in Brazil.
Finally Van Dijk in 2019 was the other player who many believed should have won the award, with the centre back helping Liverpool to win the Champions League, challenge Manchester City to the Premier League title and be crucial in the Reds' charge on last season's title, which was well underway by the time the Ballon d'Or was handed out.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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