Just like we in sports call certain time frames the "Babe Ruth Era" and the "Michael Jordan Era" as periods of those players' dominance in their respective sports’ history, we are living in the Lionel Messi Era. It is an honor and a privilege to live in it and to be a fan during it.
Most of Leo’s opponents and Real Madrid fans may not feel the same way I do.
With Lionel Messi winning his third consecutive Ballon d’Or, it seems like no one can stop Messi’s reign as the best player in the world.
Well, maybe it’s because there is no one that comes even close to Messi. Leo Messi is continuing to write his legacy in gold and by winning golden footballs. Messi will go down as the greatest of all time and this generation will simply be known as the Messi Era.
Like Ruth and Jordan during their eras, there will always be competitors looking to take the crown from the king. Messi’s reign as the king of football may not be challenged, but there are other great players who could challenge Messi for individual awards, including the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Messi will look to make it four in a row in that department.
Of course there are always debates on who is the second-best player and so forth.
(By the way, this is NOT an article to debate that.)
I decided to look at who are the players that can stop Messi from winning the Ballon d’Or next year.
Remember, the emphasis is can—meaning "is capable of"—stop Messi from winning another Ballon d'Or, not will stop Messi from winning. Big difference.
The following seven players are the men with the most realistic chance to beat out Messi for the Ballon d’Or. Sorry, Mario Goetze is a few years away, Robin van Persie would fall short in voting and please don’t even think about saying Chicharito Hernandez. I wanted to put Sergio "Kun" Aguero on this list but I felt he wouldn't have too much of a realistic chance for the Ballon d'Or because, at times, he is not a regular starter—instead, he's rotated in—at Manchester City. This is not good for his case. Also, Kun won't be playing in the Champions League knockout stage, thus not being able to play in important games where he can shine.
Of course big-name players will be on this list. As much as I think defenders and goalkeepers should get more serious consideration for the Ballon d’Or, let’s be honest, the Ballon d’Or is an award given to goal scorers or to midfielding generals.
The last defender to win the award was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, but it took a monster season at Juventus and one of the best defensive performances in World Cup history for him to win it. The only goalkeeper to win the award was Russian legend Lev Yashin back in 1963.
To be fair, I decided to look at the advantages that the player has for him, as well as the disadvantages the player has against him in the chase to challenge Messi.
In order to challenge Leo Messi for the Ballon d’Or next year, it will take a combination of many things. Goal scoring is not a must but will help. Without question, excellent overall play in all competitions. Last but not least, winning titles will go a long way.
For most on this list, one advantage they will have over Messi is the ability to perform at a major football championship as EURO 2012 will take center stage this summer.
Of course, this could all be obsolete if Messi has another amazing year or if Messi has a very bad year. I’m not counting on the “bad year” option; I would suggest that you don’t count on it as well.
That being said, here are the seven players who can stop Lionel Messi from making it four straight in 2012.