Karim Benzema won the 2022 Men’s Ballon d’Or, the most illustrious individual award in European football, for the Real Madrid striker’s herculean efforts in 2021-22.
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The results of this year’s awards revealed at Monday’s gala also signalled something of a sea change as both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, both fixtures at the Ballon d’Or polls for 15 years, recorded incredibly disappointing finishes in the ballot.
Previously, at least one or both players had finished in the top three of the vote every single year since 2007, but the 2022 final standings saw Ronaldo down in 20th place (his lowest ranking since 2005), while Messi didn’t even make it on the 30-man shortlist.
Ronaldo and Messi first appeared together in the top three of the Ballon d’Or vote back in 2007, when they respectively finished second and third behind winner Kaka in the final poll.
Ronaldo then ascended to win his first Ballon d’Or in 2008, sparking a prolonged era of domination for both himself and his rival as they proceeded to share the next 10 awards between them.
Here we chart the two players’ respective Ballon d’Or finishes year by year, starting with Ronaldo’s maiden success some 14 years ago.
2008 (Ronaldo: Ballon d’Or winner, Messi: 2nd)
Aged 23 at the time and during the penultimate season of his first stint at Manchester United, Ronaldo was the first of the duo to win the Ballon d’Or. The Portuguese forward scored 42 goals during the 2007-08 campaign as United won both the Premier League and Champions League, which ultimately saw him finish ahead of Messi in the vote.
2009 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 2nd)
Messi was bestowed with his first Ballon d’Or at the age of 22 after a Treble-winning season that culminated in him scoring in Barca’s Champions League final win over Ronaldo’s United. He became the first Argentine player to be crowned winner, a feat never achieved by Albiceleste great Diego Maradona.
2010 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 6th)
Barcelona dominated the 2010 awards as Messi claimed his second Ballon d’Or while the remaining podium places were occupied by fellow La Masia alumni Andres Iniesta and Xavi, a reflection of Spain‘s triumph at the World Cup over the summer. Meanwhile Ronaldo finished a distant sixth beneath Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan.
2011 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo 2nd)
With 43 goals and 21 assists in 47 games over the course of 2011, it came as little surprise when Messi won a third consecutive Ballon d’Or after his peerless performances fuelled Barcelona to a formidable quintuple — LaLiga, Champions League, Spanish Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup — in the space of one year.
2012 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 2nd)
Ronaldo once again had to make do with finishing runner-up behind Messi as the Barcelona forward became the first player in footballing history to win four successive Ballon d’Ors. The world was then treated to the sight of Messi collecting his record-shattering trophy while dressed up to the nines in a fabulous polka dot tuxedo.
2013 (Ronaldo: winner, Messi: 2nd)
Ronaldo managed to claw back some ground in 2013 by winning his second Ballon d’Or as the prolific Real Madrid striker pipped Messi and Franck Ribery to the award by virtue of scoring 55 goals in 55 matches for Los Blancos during the 2012-13 season.
2014 (Ronaldo: winner, Messi: 2nd)
Ronaldo completed his Ballon d’Or hat trick at the age of 29 in resounding style thanks to a landslide victory over Messi in the final poll. Scoring 51 goals in 47 games in 2013-14 overall, the Portuguese star also helped end Real Madrid’s quest to secure “La Decima” (the club’s 10th European Cup title) by scoring a record-breaking 17 goals in the Champions League.
2015 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 2nd)
Messi returned to the top of the ballot in 2015 after winning five trophies with Barcelona (including LaLiga and the Champions League) and contributing 52 goals and 26 assists in 61 games for club and country over the course of the calendar year.
2016 (Ronaldo: winner, Messi: 2nd)
The pendulum then swung again the following year as Ronaldo took the honours in 2016 to kickstart a three-year streak of sustained Champions League success. The 31-year-old scored 54 goals in 2015-16 as Real Madrid became European champions again before adding three more goals to his hefty tally as Portugal won Euro 2016.
2017 (Ronaldo: winner, Messi 2nd)
Ronaldo drew level with Messi’s record by claiming the fifth Ballon D’or of his career in 2017 by virtue of scoring 42 goals in a LaLiga and Champions League double-winning season with Real Madrid the previous campaign (2016-17).
2018 (Ronaldo: 2nd, Messi: 5th)
After playing a starring role for both Real Madrid and Croatia, Luka Modric rocked the Ballon d’Or scene by muscling into the frame and becoming the first player other than Ronaldo and Messi to win the award for an entire decade.
2019 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 3rd)
Messi moved out in front once again by winning his sixth career Ballon d’Or in 2019 after scoring 51 goals and laying on 19 assists (a whopping total of 70 goal involvements) in 49 matches during the 2018-19 season, the campaign in which he won his final LaLiga title as a Barcelona player. Messi and Ronaldo were separated on the podium by Virgil van Dijk, who finished in the silver-medal spot after his heroics for Liverpool in their Champions League-winning campaign.
2020 (Awards cancelled due to Covid-19)
Despite most major leagues and competitions eventually being completed after the first global lockdown due to the pandemic, the decision was taken not to hand out an award in 2020.
2021 (Messi: winner, Ronaldo: 6th)
Having departed Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain, Messi further extended his record in 2021 — though his seventh Ballon d’Or came as something of a shock to many fans who felt that Bayern Munich‘s unstoppable goal machine Robert Lewandowski was a nailed-on cert to win the award after being so cruelly denied in 2020 when he spearheaded the German giants’ Champions League triumph.
2022 (Ronaldo: 20th, Messi: DNQ)
Is the glorious Messi-Ronaldo Ballon d’Or duopoly finally over? The 2022 Ballon d’Or result certainly looks ominous for the once-presiding pair after Ronaldo just about managed to limp into the lower recesses of the final 30-man standings while his Argentine contemporary failed to make the grade entirely.