Who's already in a strong position to claim the Ballon d'Or?
This is almost a silly question.
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Look at the history of this award. Let us not pretend that it's a wide-ranging analysis of the performances of all the best players in the world. In part it's a popularity contest, and a nod to the stars who will guarantee the most media coverage and the biggest headlines. It's not the best player, necessarily; it's the player who's had the biggest impact, the one who's been most influential.
Look at the women's award. It's only been around for two years. Two years! The first year it was won by Ada Hegerberg - undeniably a deserving champion. But she picked up her trophy and was asked to twerk. The only good thing about the whole sorry episode was the look of horror on Kylian Mbappe's face as he watched the whole debacle unfold. What's more interesting about Hegerberg is her refusal to play international football due to her feeling that female players are not respected enough by Norway's powers-that-be. For all the moralising, Hegerberg's ongoing absence has drawn more attention to the situation than it would have done had she played and then tried to make her voice heard post-match. Did you know about it before she got that public platform and that shiny trophy? Doubtful.
Ada Hegerberg, winner ballon d'or
Image credit: Getty Images
Then last year the USA's Megan Rapinoe won it. She didn't have a bad World Cup, certainly, but she wasn't even the best player in her own squad. What she was was outspoken and interesting. She criticised the president of the United States, she spoke about human rights, she protested by taking a knee during the national anthem. Rapinoe made a difference - but not always on the pitch.
Look at the men's award for the last decade. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo basically have it on a timeshare. It doesn't matter how either of them play - selecting one or the other means plenty of clicks, social media traction and continuing debate about which of them is the greatest of all time.
The current global situation, however, means the award's scope will be even more focused on off-the-pitch impact. Who will be the most influential player? Whose actions have been the most significant this year?
At the moment, surely this means Jordan Henderson must be in the running. Yes, yes, he's been a vital part of Liverpool's surge to the top of the table, but he also brought together the Premier League captains to set up the #PlayersTogether coronavirus relief initiative, taking the moral high ground after snide shots were fired, suggesting that footballers ought to be doing more for the country in a time of crisis. Rather than hit back through words, Henderson led his colleagues to do something unprecedented and admirable.
If anyone else fancies a shot at the Ballon d'Or this year, all they have to do is...more. Galvanise their team-mates to raise massive amounts of money. Bring the footballing community together. Help to save lives.
And if they manage to actually set foot on a field, and win a footballing trophy or two, well, that's just a bonus.
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