Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have established a sort of hegemony on the best player in the world award, pocketing between themselves the last eight editions of the Ballon d’Or. Their utter stranglehold over the yearly honour begs the question: Who will break the duo’s hegemony?
It should come as no surprise if they stretch their dominance over the award for another couple of years – at least. With his performances and team honours over the summer, Ronaldo looks a strong favourite to grab his fourth Ballon d’Or, while a domestic double for Messi hasn’t hurt his chances either.
However, a couple of years down the line the duo are likely to face stiff competition. There is a rising crop of youngsters who are performing consistently at the highest level and will surely be in the reckoning when it comes to the prestigious individual honour in the coming years.
The player most likely to be at the forefront of the honour appears to be Barcelona forward Neymar. The Brazilian finished third in the 2015 Ballon d’Or voting. He had performed exceptionally for the Catalan giants with his goals and assists helping the club to a treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey in the 2014/15 campaign.
His performances remained consistent over the following season as well as he helped the Blaugrana to a domestic double, and he subsequently went on to deliver the Brazilian team their first ever gold medal at the Olympics – albeit football at the Olympics counts as an Under-23 tournament.
Nevertheless, Neymar appears to have done enough to merit a place in the top five of the Ballon d’Or votes next January if not another top three finish. Moreover, he is still only 24, meaning he is yet to get into the prime of his career. And, as a consequence, he is likely to take home a few Ballon d’Ors in the future.
Another prime candidate for the best player in the world gong is Ronaldo’s teammate Gareth Bale. The Welshman has largely been overshadowed by the more illustrious Portuguese so far at Real Madrid, but he did appear to have grown considerably in the past campaign.
Now with passing years as Ronaldo struggles to maintain his high standards, Bale is likely to become the main man at the Santiago Bernabeu and make a stronger case for the Ballon d’Or.
Manchester United’s world record signing Paul Pogba is increasingly being talked amongst the players who will conquer the world. Although Jose Mourinho downplayed the midfielder’s chances of winning the individual award there is no denying that he is going to be in the reckoning soon.
Juventus’ Paulo Dybala is another sumptuous talent that excited the football fans with his play last season. The Argentine will now be challenged for a first team spot with the arrival of compatriot Gonzalo Higuain but he has the skills to command a regular first team spot despite the increased competition at the Old Lady. He is likely to be the next big Argentine talent on the scene – if he isn’t already.