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If you stepped on earth for the first time in January 2020 and knew the rules of football, but nothing of our players and history, who would catch your eye in the major leagues?
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That is what the Ballon d’Or should boil down to: who had the best 12 months irrespective of previous success or failure.
Or in the case of 2020, who has had the best three months. With the coronavirus ripping through the football calendar, and no sign of its immediate return, we could be left with the bizarre scenario where January, February and March carry much more weight when awards season rolls around. So who is in the best position as it stands? Anyone outside of football’s obvious duo?
Disappointingly, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are enjoying decent seasons. Ronaldo has 13 goals in 11 games in 2020, while Messi is keeping a creaking Barcelona team at the Liga summit. But both already have blots on their copybook – Messi has had his worst goal drought in six years (OK, just four games) and Ronaldo (and Juventus) failed to have a shot on target in the shock defeat at Lyon in the first leg of their now interrupted Champions League last-16 tie.
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If not football’s most famous faces, then who? Erling Haaland has caught the eye, his almost clumsy style failing to halt his supreme run of form. But even he has faltered, failing to net as Dortmund crashed out of the Champions League against PSG in an empty Parc des Princes last month.
So is there a player who can boast a near-perfect 2020, ready to fire in all competitions when football finally returns?
And that is where the case for Robert Lewandowski can be built. Perhaps the greatest striker of his generation – hitting 20+ Bundesliga goals in 9 of the last 10 seasons – he has always been overlooked for the top honours. But that could be set to change.
Lewandowski is the top scorer in the Bundesliga and the Champions League – notably bagging nine goals in eight games in 2020 – keeping the Germans nicely on course for a treble. Bayern’s 10 wins and a draw from 11 games in 2020 can’t be matched. In the big moments, the Pole has made an impact already this year, assisting two and scoring another as Bayern downed Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, while also scoring a late winner against Paderborn.
Robert Lewandowski im Duell mit den Chelsea-Spielern Reece James und Willian
Image credit: Getty Images
If you delve into the murky world of statistics, he comes out favourably too, boasting the highest rating on WhoScored.com (8.16) in the Bundesliga and third overall in Europe behind Messi and Neymar. That encapsulates an entire season, not just 2020, so Messi can be usurped based on earlier arguments, while few can claim Ligue 1 is as strong as the Bundesliga when weighing up Neymar v Lewandowski.
With Euro 2020 postponed until 2021, Lewandowski won’t have to worry about crashing out early with Poland at a major tournament. No, what football remains of this year will be club football – and Bayern are one of a handful of clubs capable of winning multiple trophies, including the Champions League.
Understandably, little attention is on the Ballon d’Or right now due to the world’s plight and minimal sample size of football matches, but the platform is there for Lewandowski to make a dart for an overdue individual award when football finally resumes.
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