3 Biggest ‘Robberies’ in Ballon d’Or History As 2023 Race Between Messi, Haaland Heats Up

3 Biggest ‘Robberies’ in Ballon d’Or History As 2023 Race Between Messi, Haaland Heats Up

Martin Moses
  • Wesley Sneijder's 2010 Ballon d'Or snub sparked a lot of controversies, as the playmaker was involved in every trophy his side won
  • The Inter Milan star did not make it even in the top three, despite winning a treble and the Bronze Boot at the World Cup
  • Franck Ribery had a similar case against Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013, after winning the treble with Bayern Munich

The decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in the 'weird' month of December has brought about a chain of unprecedented debate ahead of the 2023 Ballon d'Or race.

The World Cup is often a strong indicator of who will win the Ballon d'Or, with Lionel Messi leading the race for the individual gong. Erling Haaland has since immersed himself in that debate.

However, with Messi's early elimination from the Champions League, the 2023 race will be determined by a couple of things apart from the World Cup. Let's face it, by the time the 2023 vote reaches, the Qatar bonanza will be in distant memory.

Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery, Wesley Sneijder, Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema
Former Bayern Munich teammates Robert Lewandowski and Franck Ribery in 2018. Photo by Christof Stache.
Source: Getty Images

There is no doubt that the 2023 race will be a heated one, but what are some of the most controversial calls in history?

1. Robert Lewandowski - 2020

The theft herein was the fact that it was cancelled at a time when Lewandowski was on his way to winning his first title. A Lewandowski victory could have been uncontested like the Benzema triumph last year, as he was in a class of his own.

According to a report on Goal, the organisers cited the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, but every sane football fan knows it was Lewandowski's award for the taking.

2. Franck Ribery - 2013

Ribery was part of the Bayern Munich squad that won the treble under Jupp Heynckes. He was the focal point of the attack that saw off Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final.

However, he was beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo to the award despite Ronaldo finishing the season without a single trophy. Ronaldo was adjudged to have had better individual numbers than Ribery.

The French star did not even finish in second place; boy, was he bitter!

3. Wesley Sneijder - 2010

How the Ballon d'Or winner is arrived at came under intense scrutiny in 2010. Whether it was one's goals or how one had inspired his side to trophies was discussed widely.

Judging by the outcome, the former won the argument as Lionel Messi was declared the winner. While it is hard to argue against Messi's 60 goal contributions that season, Sneijder had made Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan tick.

Inter won the treble that season and Sneijder followed it up with another marquee performance at the World Cup. He was only outperformed by Uruguay's Diego Forlan as the Netherlands reached the final.

Messi, meanwhile, bowed out in the quarter-finals and was eliminated from the Champions League by Sneijder's Inter.

Updated Ballon d'Or 2023 rankings

Sports Brief had earlier reported that Messi remains the front-runner to win a record eighth title when the ceremony goes down sometime in October this year.

His World Cup heroics with Argentina have given him a perfect head start. Erling Haaland has closed the gap, or even surpassed him, in recent months, with a spectacular goal-scoring record as he chases a treble with Manchester City.

In as much as the Ballon d'Or award is often given on individual merits, the Champions League usually plays a critical role in swaying the vote. In the case of a World Cup year, the once-in-four-years competition takes precedence over any other trophy. Luka Modric is a witness.

Africa's shortcomings at Ballon d'Or

Sports Brief has also reported that Sadio Mane recorded a contrasting set of fortunes in the 2021/2022 season. The then Liverpool forward led Senegal to their maiden African Cup of Nations title.

He then played a huge part as Liverpool beat Chelsea in both the FA and Carabao Cup finals to complete a domestic double. They were not as lucky in the Premier League and the Champions League finals, however.

That notwithstanding, Mane was a strong contender for the 2022 Ballon d'Or award. One could argue that if Lionel Messi won the 2021 award after leading Argentina to the Copa America, then Mane surely deserved an equal chance.