We are at the end of an electrifying football season in Europe, as Liverpool lifted the coveted UEFA Champions League trophy over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
The European final not only marked the conclusion of the campaign, but it will also prove to be a major deciding factor in the race for the 2019 Ballon d’Or award.
Football’s most prestigious award has gone hand-in-hand with the Champions League for the better part of the decade. Eight out of ten times, winners of the Ballon d’Or in the last ten years had won the European Cup in the same year.
Lionel Messi, who has dominated the award alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the last decade, failed to guide Barcelona to the European title after crashing out of the Champions League following a humiliating defeat to Liverpool in the semi-finals last month. Despite this shortcoming, the Argentine maestro remains a favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year following spectacular displays all season.
Here we take a look at the reasons why the Barcelona captain could win a record sixth Ballon d’Or and the circumstances that could stop him from lifting it.
Why he might win:
Messi’s performances this season were too otherworldly to be overshadowed by his European disappointment, which is why he remains an overwhelming favourite to win the Ballon d’Or.
The Barcelona captain enjoyed an eye-catching individual season, having netted a mind-blowing 51 goals and tallied 15 assists in all competitions for the Catalan giants.
The Argentine’s goal-scoring exploits have led him to the Pichichi trophy and the European Golden Shoe, besides a string of single-handed club victories.
The 31-year-old dominated almost every attacking aspect in La Liga, eventually guiding the Spanish titans to the league title, which is his first as captain of the club.
Despite his failure to bring the Champions League trophy back to the Nou Camp, Messi finished his European season as the top scorer of Europe’s elite competition, which is yet another badge to mark his electrifying individual campaign.
Why he might not:
Messi’s shortcomings outside of La Liga will surely come back to haunt him in the final few weeks of the year. Considering the fact that the Ballon d’Or has been heavily associated with European glory in recent years, Barcelona’s grand collapse in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey might hinder his chances of winning the award for a record sixth time.
Barcelona, who were favourites to secure a finals spot after a thumping three-goal win over Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals, gave away their advantage in one of the worst collapses in European history.
To add salt to the wound, the Catalan giants also lost out on the Copa del Rey after enduring a discouraging defeat to Valencia in the finals in Seville.
Messi could, however, command a revival of his Ballon d’Or hopes by putting in decisive performances for Argentina in the upcoming Copa America in Brazil.