Halfway through: Who will win the 2017 Ballon d’Or?

Ronaldo has already won four Ballon d'Or awards
Is Ronaldo making room for a fifth Ballon d'Or?

We’re halfway through the year! it’s the perfect time to take stock and discuss who’s the frontrunner of the race for the 2017 Ballon d’Or.

In March, we wrote the article “Who is leading the race for the 2017 Ballon d’Or?” In that piece, we concluded that Lionel Messi’s statistics outdid those of Cristiano Ronaldo at the time. Back then, the Argentine had netted more goals than his Portuguese counterpart (16 to 9). He’d also delivered twice as many assists (6 to 3). Although having also played five more games than Ronaldo at the time, Messi seemed like the favorite to clinch the next Ballon d’Or award.

Lionel Messi scored and assisted in Barcelona's victory vs Celta Vigo
Messi was on fire during the spring. In the 5-0 humiliation of Celta Vigo in March, Messi scored and assisted twice.

However, a lot has changed since then. The 2016/17 season is over and the several tournaments in Europe have found their winners, their top scorers, etc. The first half of a calendar year is always the one where the most prestigious titles are at stake and so the Ballon d’Or is often awarded to a player who’s excelled and won notable silverware during the first six months of a year.

Last December, Ronaldo won the 2016 Ballon d’Or even though injuries forced him to play below average during the five previous months. Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or was therefore largely down to his triumphs during the first half of the year – the Champions League victory with Real Madrid in May and the Euro 2016 title with Portugal in July.

Ronaldo with EURO 2016 trophy
Portugal’s historic victory in the Euro 2016 played a big role in Ronaldo’s subsequent Ballon d’Or win

So, let’s take a look at who’s the favorite to clinch the 2017 Ballon d’Or now that we’re halfway through the year 2017. First, we bring you the arguments that speak in favor of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, respectively.

Why should Ronaldo win the 2017 Ballon d’Or?

First of all, Ronaldo and Real Madrid wrote football history when the Spanish giants beat Juventus 4-1 in the Champions League final on June 3rd in Cardiff.

Real Madrid won the Champions League after beating Juventus
Real Madrid won their second consecutive Champions League in June 2017

The victory made Real Madrid the first team to win the prestigious title back-to-back since the format of the tournament was changed in 1992. This remarkable feat will unquestionably increase Ronaldo’s chances of winning his fifth Ballon d’Or at the end of the year, considering his outstanding influence in the knockout stages and the ultimate showdown. Furthermore, Ronaldo staged an incredible individual comeback against Lionel Messi to finish off as the top scorer of the tournament with 12 goals – two of which came in the final against Juventus.

Remarkably, the Champions League title is not the only major piece of silverware that Ronaldo has bagged so far in 2017. In May, Real Madrid clinched their 33rd La Liga title, thereby ending a five-season drought in the domestic league.

And guess who killed off Barcelona’s hopes for an upset on Matchday 38? Cristiano, of course, with a 2nd-minute strike in Malaga that prematurely discouraged Camp Nou’s faithful.

Real Madrid won the La Liga in May after beating Malaga
Real Madrid won their 33rd La Liga title in May.

Winning both the Champions League and La Liga in one season is without a doubt a big step towards further individual honors for Ronaldo. On top of that, the 32-year old Portuguese has also fared well with his national team so far this year. Portugal has won both their World Cup Qualification matches against Hungary and Latvia with a score of 3-0. In both games, Ronaldo bagged a brace.

Madeira’s most popular son also inspired Portugal to an eventual third-place finish at the 2017 FIFA the Confederations Cup. The prelude to next year’s World Cup in Russia included teams like Mexico, Germany, Cameroon and Chile. Unfortunately, the Seleccao lost out in the semi-final to the CONMEBOL champions on penalties (0-3).

It must be noted that Cristiano was not to blame. Throughout the game, his passes could have turned into assists had Andre Gomes and Andre Silva been lethal on that night. In the penalty shootouts, coach Fernando Santos decided to list him in fifth position. He could only watch painfully as Ricardo Quaresma, Moutinho and Nani all failed to convert their spot-kicks.

Cristiano during Portugal-Chile penalty shootouts
Ronaldo’s reaction during Portugal’s dreadful penalty shootouts vs Chile.
Cristiano kisses Quaresma
Quaresma was devastated. Cristiano consoled him. Leadership.

Afterwards, Ronaldo’s colleagues grabbed bronze medals against Mexico (2-1) while the captain himself had headed home to welcome his newborn twin babies to the world.

Ronaldo sits with his two new babies
Ronaldo is now the happy father of three.

Indeed, there are plenty of reasons as to why Cristiano Ronaldo should win his fifth Ballon d’Or at the end of this year. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the Portuguese is likely to miss out on all of Real Madrid’s games this summer. This includes El Clasico in Miami and the UEFA Super Cup vs Manchester United in Skopje on July 29 and August 8, respectively. So, Ronaldo will not get the chance to shine before the 2017/18 season officially kicks off… or perhaps he could give Copa del Rey winner Leo a knockout blow in the Spanish Super Cup scheduled for August 11 (first leg) and August 14 (second leg).

Why should Messi win the 2017 Ballon d’Or?

Now, let’s take a look at Ronaldo’s Argentine counterpart, Lionel Messi. Ever a candidate when it comes to individual honors, Messi will strive to take home his sixth (!) Ballon d’Or this year. And it’s not unlikely that he’ll do so. In May, he led Barcelona to the Copa del Rey title with a goal and an assist in the final vs Alavés.

Lionel Messi played a big role in the Copa del Rey final
Leo delivered a splendid assist to Paco Alcácer in the 3-1 victory vs Alavés.

The Argentine also finished off as the tied top scorer of the tournament with five goals alongside Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder. Additionally, Messi once again proved to be lethal in the domestic league where he also finished as the top scorer with 37 goals.

This year, Argentina hasn’t participated in an international tournament like Portugal did in the Confederations Cup, so Lionel Messi hasn’t had the same chance to shine on the international stage like Ronaldo. However, the 30-year old skipper did lead his national team to a 1-0 victory in both of the international games he was called up for – the World Cup qualifier vs Chile in March and the friendly match vs Brazil in June.

Between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the former seems to have the edge in the race for the 2017 Ballon d’Or, so far. This is largely down to the fact that Ronaldo has won both the Champions League and La Liga titles this year. However, it’s not a given that either Ronaldo or Messi will lift the prestigious individual award. Although those two icons are the “usual suspects” in the race for the trophy, they are not the only players who’ve excelled during the first half of 2017. Let’s take a look at some other serious contenders for the 2017 Ballon d’Or award.

Who can challenge Ronaldo and Messi for the 2017 Ballon d’Or?

First of all, there’s the 25-year old Barcelona starlet, Neymar. When we asked who is leading the race for the 2017 Ballon d’Or back in March, we discussed this man as a potential candidate for the gong awarded by France Football magazine. At the time, the Brazilian had just carried Barcelona through to the Champions League quarterfinals with two goals and two assists vs PSG. Later, he went on to win the Copa del Rey title with Barcelona while also bagging the most assists in the Champions League tournament. Neymar can definitely prove to be a threat to Messi and Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or hopes.

Neymar helped Barcelona overcome PSG in the Champions League
Neymar played a huge part in Barcelona’s magical comeback vs PSG

Then there’s Kylian Mbappé. This young man, who’s only 18-years-old, has already shown the football world that he’s full of potential. Netting 26 goals during the 2016/17 season, the Frenchman led AS Monaco to their first Ligue 1 title since the year 2000. He also helped his club reach the semifinals of the Champions League as well as in the Coupe de France. Last but not least, Mbappé and Monaco reached the final in the Coupe de la Ligue.Overall, Mbappé will definitely be one to look out for when the Ballon d’Or shortlists are announced. He would be the youngest player ever on the podium, surpassing Lionel Messi and Ronaldo Nazário who were both 20 when they entered the top 3 in 2007 and 1996, respectively.

Overall, Mbappé will definitely be one to look out for when the Ballon d’Or shortlist is announced. He could become the youngest player ever on the podium, surpassing Lionel Messi and Ronaldo Nazário who were both 20 when they entered the top 3 in 2007 and 1996, respectively.

Kylian Mbappé has scored many goals for AS Monaco last season
Mbappé has celebrated plenty of goals this past season.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning Edinson Cavani. Although he doesn’t catch the headlines as often as Messi and Ronaldo, the 30-year-old Uruguayan enjoyed a spectacular 2016/17 season. With PSG he won the Coupe de France as well as the Coupe de la Ligue. PSG also finished second in the Ligue 1 where Cavani was crowned the top scorer. In fact, with 35 league goals, Cavani was the second most scoring player in all of Europe – right behind Messi.

Cavani scores for PSG vs Barcelona in the Champions League
One of Cavani’s many goals last season came against Barcelona in the Champions League.

Prediction: The Ballon d’Or top 3

So, we’ve got a preliminary idea of who the contenders for the 2017 Ballon d’Or might be. But there’s still a long way to go. The start of the 2017/18 season will be vital for all the above-mentioned players, as no one can afford to rest on their laurels just yet.

Ronaldo seems to hold the lead so far but if Messi, Neymar, Mbappé, Cavani or anyone else manages to get off to a cracking start in their national league as well as the Champions League then everything is possible. The national Super Cups held in July and August will also be finals to follow.

All in all, the 2017 Ballon d’Or is far from decided which ensures that the last six months of 2017 will be as thrilling as the first. A rough guess at the final top 3 would, at this point, look something like this:

  1. Ronaldo
  2. Messi
  3. Neymar

It’s worth mentioning, though, that Messi has already been snubbed by France Football for their 2016/17 Champions League Team of the Season.

The Ballon d’Or organizers chose Ronaldo to lead their attack and picked UCL quarter-finalist Leo Messi as a sub only.

Maybe this year will be the first time Lionel Messi isn’t part of the final three and loses his 5-4 Ballon d’Or awards lead?

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Adam is a young guy from Denmark. He has always nourished his passionate love for football with Real Madrid C.F. being his favorite club and Cristiano Ronaldo, his all-time idol. The Copenhagen University law student loves to read football-related news in Danish, English and French and has always wanted to get his own words out there. In his spare time, Adam works out, plays the keyboard and watches as much football as possible. Occasionally, he has fun engaging in a heated game of FIFA, Battlefield or the likes.


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