Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
Far-Fetched Friday: 2021 Ballon d'Or to Feature No Messi or Ronaldo in Top 3
By: Jake Lofgren
The footballing world is desperately going to miss the Ronaldo vs. Messi era. Although, this era is inevitably coming to an end. The sports world has never seen anything like the dominance both Ronaldo and Messi shared over the last 14 years. For the best part of a decade and a half, the two constantly battled for Ballon d'Ors, Champions Leagues, League titles, and International trophies.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, look at the end of two dynasties and the most prestigious individual award in all of sports.
The last time the top 3 vote receivers did not contain the names Ronaldo or Messi was back in 2006 when the top 3 were Fabio Cannavaro, Gigi Buffon, and Thierry Henry. Between 2007 and 2020, the only two to win the award not named Messi or Ronaldo were Kaka in 2007 and Luka Modric in 2018. Ronaldo and Messi have not dropped off by any means, they are still two of the best players in the world, but this season could finally see some other players pass them both in Ballon d'Or voting.
Ronaldo and Messi will both continue to put up the unbelievable numbers that we are accustomed to seeing but, trophies and team success play heavily into Ballon d'Or voting as well. Juventus could very well still win the Serie A and/or the Champions League this season, although right now, they do not look like favorites to win either. Right now, Juventus sit 10 points off the top of the table, with several other clubs eager to knock Juventus off their throne. Climbing back from the hole Juventus have dug themselves into might be too hard for even Ronaldo to pull off.
Messi and Barcelona have also done themselves no favors, as they also sit 10 points off the top of the table. And unlike Juventus, who play Porto in the Champions League round of 16, Barcelona has to go up against last year's runner-up in PSG. Messi may end his beef with Barcelona in the summer and leave for a better team, but it is also very possible he doesn't. Even if he leaves, I'm not sure half a season at a new team would be enough, with all of the major trophies for the year behind him. Messi and Ronaldo both have big tournaments this summer, too. I believe a lot of the voting in the Ballon d'Or will come down to performances for their national teams.
But then who's up next? Messi and Ronaldo can't drop off without someone else stepping up and taking their place. Here are my predicted top 3 for the Ballon d'Or voting in 2021(with a few extras):
Lewandowski was absolutely robbed when FIFA canceled the 2020 Ballon d'Or. Despite everything going on around the world, this year belonged to Bayern Munich. Bayern won every trophy in their path and Lewandowski was the lead man throughout it all. Already in 2021, Lewandowski has been saving Bayern on many different occasions. Voters will remember how bad the 2020 robbery was when the time comes to vote again. If Bayern has similar success as last season and Poland can have even just a decent showing in the Euros, expect Lewandowski to at the least be in the top 3.
Mbappe has been the footballing world's new golden boy ever since the 2018 World Cup. I believe this year could be a great year for him to step up and win his first Ballon d'Or. If PSG wins all their domestic trophies, has a similar Champions League run like last year, and Mbappe shows out at another big tournament in the Euros this summer, why not Mbappe for Ballon d'Or? It may be tough to win one at PSG because the league does not get much credit, but that is where the Euros and Champions League come in to play a big part in his success. It may also be hard for him to win if he gets outplayed by Neymar, but I think the storyline will go a bit more in his favor, even if it's close. I am leaning towards picking Mbappe as my 2021 Ballon d'Or winner.
Kevin De Bruyne
People have forgotten just how good this man actually is. Last season's PFA Player of the Year did not have the greatest start to the new season, but then again, neither did the entire City team. Manchester City has completely bounced back, playing the best football in the Premier League from the back to a front that doesn't even include a healthy Aguero yet. Manchester City could end up raising the Premier League trophy this season, along with a few other domestic trophies, and are still knocking around in the Champions League. Oh, and Belgium's golden generation is probably staring at their last chance at a major trophy this summer at the Euros. Let's forget about De Bruyne's end to 2020 because 2021 could very well belong to this man.
Erling Haaland - Haaland is the favorite to rival Mbappe for this award for years to come. If he bags goals for Dortmund and gets a big move to continue bagging goals for a bigger club, votes will come his way.
Neymar - It is very possible that Neymar wins the Ballon d'Or in 2021. With Copa America and the chance to outshine Mbappe on the way to some silverware, Neymar could finish very high on the list, too.
Mo Salah - Liverpool aren't out of the Premier League race yet even though they are absolutely struggling right now. If Liverpool figure it out, it will be because of Salah's goals and there is no Van Dijk to steal away some hype.
Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid are still in the La Liga and Champions League race, too. And if Real have any success this season the bulk of the credit deserves to go to this man.
Again, Messi and Ronaldo still have plenty left in the tank, but this year, I think the storyline will belong to some new faces.
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