Lionel Messi once again stands alone atop the mountain, having won his record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or. Messi’s sixth surpasses Cristiano Ronaldo, who tied the Argentine with five in 2017. Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk was the runner-up and Juventus’ Ronaldo, who was not in attendance at the ceremony, captured third place.
The debate this season for the award came down to individual greatness versus the glory of team trophies. van Dijk is arguably the best defender in the world, leading Liverpool to the Champions League trophy and the Netherlands to the UEFA Nations League final, where they fell to Portugal. That Nations League trophy and a boatload of goals make up the argument for Ronaldo. Unfortunately for the Portuguese legend, Messi didn’t just have a boatload of goals; he scored a full fleet in the last year.
His turn and dribble against Filipe Luis and Atletico Madrid. The goals and ovation against Real Betis. The first leg against Liverpool. Messi had at least ten moments in 2019 that would be most other players’ career highlight. He won the European Golden Shoe. He passed the eye test as the best player in the world. His peers agreed whenever asked. It’s been a few years that the voting committee went with the narrative, but the trophy has returned to the man most deserving, regardless of what happened in 90 minutes at Anfield.
Marc-André ter Stegen was picked as the 24th player in line for the award, and he was picked second for the inaugural Lev Yashin Trophy. Liverpool’s Alisson took home that honor, but there is an argument to be made that ter Stegen was more important to his team’s defense than the Brazilian. Germany’s choice to stick with Manuel Neuer limited ter Stegen’s international impact and this may have also contributed to his runner-up status.
Antoine Griezmann sits at 18th on the list and Frenkie de Jong is in the 11th spot. de Jong’s heroic performances for Ajax and the Netherlands alongside Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek, who also made the Ballon d’Or shortlist, almost got him into the top ten.