The world was expecting, among other things, that the battle for the Ballon d’Or this year would again be between Messi and Ronaldo – both on five each having shared the last 10 awards between them – with Neymar as the third contender. But now, it will be none of these three.
The front runners now must be Antoine Griezmann and Luca Modric, who have shined brighter than the rest in Russia, and have helped to carry their respective nations to the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday. The third contender will be Kylian Mbappé, who has been a formidable force in several games, particularly against Argentina when he scored two goals. He hasn’t been as consistent as the other two, but whatever happens on Sunday, he has put his hand up for contention.
The failures of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar
The failures of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar at this year’s World Cup are of different magnitude and for different reasons. Cristiano began the campaign with a tremendous display against Spain in which he scored a hat-trick. But his performances dropped after that and he was unconvincing in the decisive last 16 game against Uruguay.
Messi was unconvincing from start to finish, much like the whole Argentinean team, in whom he failed to inspire leadership, nor provoke a resurrection. Neymar came into the tournament short on game time after having only shortly returned from injury. He will be remembered more for feigning pain and throwing himself around, which has been one of the ugliest features of this World Cup.
The leadership of Modric and Griezmann
Modric and Griezmann, meanwhile, have led their respective teams all the way to the final, and in difficult moments throughout the campaign, their colleagues have looked to them to go above and beyond. Modric has gotten better with each game, and has been the confident anchor for his team. His performance and attitude on the biggest stage have made him a great ambassador for the game. Griezmann has been the driving force behind France, controlling games, setting the pace and administering the final blow when needed.
The final on Sunday will decide the winner of the Ballon d’Or, unless Mbappé says otherwise.