Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo to Compete for 2 Awards After Ballon d'Or Change

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2016

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo hands a microhpone to Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi (L) as they stand on stage after being selected in the 2014 FIFA FIFPro World XI during the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 12, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

The domination of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or sweepstakes could be drawing to a close after it was announced the prizegiving for Player of the Year will revert back to two awards. 

The Independent's Jack Austin reported on Tuesday that France Football's relationship with FIFA will cease this year, meaning players will once again compete for two gongs—the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year.

The world's finest will compete to clinch the 2016 Ballon d'Or later this year.
The world's finest will compete to clinch the 2016 Ballon d'Or later this year.ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

France Football partnered with FIFA in 2010 as part of a £13 million deal, and since then, Ronaldo (two wins) and Messi (four) have been the only players to add the Ballon d'Or to their trophy cabinets.

The move has been speculated by some as one to loosen Ronaldo and Messi's grip on world football's top individual accolade, and Goal.com's Robin Bairner pointed out whom French daily L'Equipe are pushing to win:

France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann helped his country reach the final of UEFA Euro 2016, while also helping Los Rojiblancos to the UEFA Champions League final and LaLiga title contention last term.

Meanwhile, Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports said Ronaldo should take home his third Ballon d'Or after leading Portugal to the Euro 2016 crown, with Real Madrid team-mate and fellow Champions League winner Gareth Bale in second:

The Ballon d'Or ceremony will now also take place before the end of 2016, rather than in January, as has been the case for the past six years.

That counts among one of numerous changes coming into effect this year, and the Sun's Andrew Richardson provided a statement from France Football detailing the rest of the alterations:

After six years in which captains, managers and journalists chose the winner, the rules will change a little for 2016. The champion will be selected, like before, by a jury of journalists from all around the world.

Here are the main novelties:

1. The vote will include a list of 30 players — instead of the 23 in previous editions.

2. The intermediate phase, where a list of three finalists was announced — will cease to exist.

3. The winner and the entire list with will completed and revealed before the end of the year. [The gala has been traditionally held in January]

Also sure to be in the running for either of the returned prizes are the Barcelona duo of Luis Suarez and Neymar, each of whom starred alongside—and even at times outshone—Messi en route to a league and cup double in 2016.

Suarez can lay claim to the prize after netting a massive 40 goals so far in 2016, per Transfermarkt, while Neymar recently suggested team-mate Messi is still deserving, per Spanish daily Sport:

For me it's easy to play with Messi, when you play with the best in the world, as you've seen, it's easy. And to be able to take free-kicks [like against Celtic] is a sign of the companionship. We understand each other really well, with Luis Suarez, too, and that helps us.

Sometimes the best doesn't win. If the best always won, Messi wouldn't have to participate any more, I'd be out and they'd have to give another one to him.

Arturo Vidal might be counted among the dark horses for a Ballon d'Or nomination after helping Bayern Munich clinch the Bundesliga title in 2016, not to mention aiding Chile in their second successive Copa America triumph.

Paul Pogba might also have been an underdog after impressing in Juventus' most recent Serie A title, but his odds have likely dropped after losing momentum following a world-record return to Manchester United.