Comparisons are a vital part of sports. We can't set our eyes on a new talent without immediately pointing to who that player reminds us of, like the Leonardo Di Caprio meme from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I do it too, so I wish I had an answer for why we can't escape the jaws of a player-comp,...
Far-Fetched Friday: Lewandowski wins 2020 Ballon d'Or
By: Jake Lofgren
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, our prediction concerns the Ballon d'Or, one of the most prestigious individual awards in the world.
The last time a Ballon d'Or winner did not play for Barcelona or Real Madrid was when Cristiano Ronaldo won back in 2008 as a Manchester United player. The only time in the last twelve years someone not named Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi won the award was Luka Modric in 2018 at Real Madrid. Other than that, the Ballon d'Or has been going back and forth between Ronaldo and Messi for the last decade. With everyone around the world taking the necessary precautions to combat COVID-19, the Ballon d'Or is one of the many things that will be affected by the pandemic.
The biggest international tournament this summer, EURO 2020, has been canceled along with any other international play. This means that the award will be awarded to someone based solely on club performances and achievements, which eliminates the opportunity for someone like Modric in 2018 to gain votes based on his impressive run with Croatia in the World Cup. With domestic soccer leagues all over the world pushing back the target date to resume play, the speculation is growing on how these leagues will finish their seasons. No matter how the year finishes, the games played in the first two months of soccer in 2020 should have a huge impact on the winner of the Ballon d'Or.
One player who was in great form before leagues postponed their seasons was Bayern Munich's, Robert Lewandowski. Over the course of his career, Lewandowski has been one of the most dangerous strikers in the world, and is probably the most complete forward soccer has seen in the past few decades. Lewandowski is just now reaching his prime and has been on fire over the last year, making his first UEFA Team of the Year in 2019 at the age of 31.
If you look at the work he did during the time he played in 2020, he managed to rack up nine goals and three assists in just eight games. Bayern was looking as if they would finally lose a Bundesliga title with Leipzig and Dortmund hovering above them in the early parts of the season, but Lewandowski assured Bayern stayed in the race and now with the season suspended, they sit atop the table with a four-point lead. Lewandowski also played a huge part in one of the most memorable games of 2020 thus far, scoring one and assisting two in Bayern's 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea in the Champions League. If the Bundesliga and Champions League seasons are saved, Bayern looks to be in control of the Bundesliga again and look like a real contender to win this year's Champions League, with Lewandowski currently as the highest goal scorer in both competitions.
As long as Messi and Ronaldo are both still playing, it is hard to see anyone else win the award. Luka Modric was able to sway voters in 2018 because of the hype he built around the World Cup, which was a World Cup in which neither Messi and Ronaldo had much success. Although, even in that year the winner still should have just been Messi.
The competition for the award now is as fierce as ever. Liverpool's recent success means Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk have thrown their names in the hat for the Ballon d'Or. Despite Liverpool's dominating season, Kevin De Bruyne still looks like the frontrunner to win PFA Player of the Year in England after having one of the best seasons of his career. Neymar has always been a possibility to compete for the award, and his performance to save PSG's Champions League campaign should also make him a contender.
With what will likely be at least three to four months of no soccer around the world, along with the cancelation of international tournaments like EURO 2020, the games already played over the first two months of 2020 are even more impactful in deciding the winner. Players who got off to hot starts to the year like Erling Haaland, Josip Ilicic, and Ciro Immobile could even end up high in the rankings as well. COVID-19 has caused chaos around the sports world, which could cause a different name to win.
Whether the 2019-20 season resumes or not, Robert Lewandowski's name will be close to the top. His performances and club success will be the only things that matter in the voting now that the prospect of Poland struggling in EURO 2020 isn't even a possibility. The future of the soccer world is unknown, but fans are witnessing one of the most complete forwards in recent history hit his top form and will come away with a huge accolade in the 2020 Ballon d'Or.
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