A goalkeeper, Alisson Becker, should win the Ballon d'Or for the first time since Lev Yashin won the award back in 1963. It would represent an anomaly but the Ballon d'Or will be decided this year under anomalous circumstances - perhaps in lieu of football.
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If the coronavirus pandemic had not interrupted the season, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would have won the 2020 Ballon d'Or. Those two have had a transformative effect on football. They have in many ways distorted what is expected of an elite-level player, which has, in turn, allowed a hegemony to develop. The excellence of others can often be blurred by the sheer weight of numbers that Messi and Ronaldo muster. Further, that fact - the importance of numbers - represents how individual awards are skewed in favour of attacking players. It is easy to quantify excellent output from a forward, but less so for a defender or a goalkeeper.
The currency of an exceptional Ronaldo season is goals. If he scores a boatload of them, as he done so consistently for a decade, then, well, he is always in with a shout of winning these individual awards; Messi offers, to this observer's eye, a more all-round contribution alongside the goals, but, again, as long as that goal tally hits the 30-40+ range then he'll be in the running.
Defenders and goalkeepers are a little more difficult to quantify. A lot of tackles or saves does not necessarily make for an excellent defender or goalkeeper - in fact, they are probably playing in a poor team. It is perhaps why Virgil van Dijk's candidacy for last year's award took on impetus as the 'he hasn't been dribbled past in 65 games' stat began to do the rounds. As his brilliance became quantifiable, his candidacy was strengthened. That stat had a little more grandeur than say 200 clearances over the course of the season - impressive in itself but not necessarily representative of an excellent player and hardly aspirational like 40+ goals or not being dribbled past in an age.

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So, how then can Alisson Becker's brilliance be quantified? The number of clean sheets or saves fall foul of the same reasoning as above. His brilliance was, in fact, best represented by his absence. Alisson was bought in the summer of 2018 after Liverpool had been beaten in the Champions League final by Real Madrid in a match that will not only be remembered for Gareth Bale's overhead kick but also Loris Karius' sloppy goalkeeping.
The season that followed his acquisition saw the club return to the Champions League final, winning 2-0 against Tottenham and pushing Manchester City to the last day of the season in the league.
Liverpool went up another level again in the 2019-20 season, more or less winning the title by early February. On reflection there is little doubt over Alisson's contribution to their emergence as the best team in Europe. Yet, Alisson's brilliance became normalised until he wasn't there. For example lost amongst the euphoria of the semi-final comeback against Barcelona or the actual final win against Tottenham was the all-round brilliance of the 27-year-old. His presence - an intangible of sorts - allowed Jurgen Klopp's side to play with an abandon against Barcelona back in 2018 that would not have been possible with Karius, Simon Mignolet or even Adrian in goal. His assurance has given Liverpool an edge.
The above claim was given added credence when the Brazilian picked up an injury in early March. At that stage of the season, the Reds were still on for a treble but two games later with Adrian stationed in goal, they were out of the FA Cup and the Champions League. Alisson's absence in those games underlined that his performances were far from standard or normal but of the exceptional equivalence to those of Messi or Ronaldo. That is to say that the Liverpool goalkeeper should have been in the running for the award in 2019.
He has represented a transformative signing for Liverpool - turning a very good, yet flawed, team into a great, perhaps generational, team. He was the catalyst that transformed Liverpool into the best team in Europe and the world. There is no better yardstick or measurement of excellence. Therefore, if the Ballon d'Or is going to be awarded in the absence of football it should in this opinion be awarded to the player whose true worth was crystallised in his own absence on the pitch.
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