Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to win the 2017 Ballon d'Or to extend the incredible spell of dominance he and Lionel Messi have cast over the world of football.
2008 – Ronaldo (Messi second, Fernando Torres third)
Two years older than Messi, Ronaldo had his growth spurt into true superstardom a bit earlier. No less than 77 of the 96 journalists voting for the award placed their vote for Ronaldo after he scored 42 goals to inspire Manchester United to a Premier League and Champions League double.
2009 – Messi (Ronaldo second, Xavi third)
Appointed at the start of the 2008-09 campaign, Pep Guardiola had lead Barcelona on course for their first ever Sextulpe. Leo Messi laid the groundwork for a long, long period of dominance over the man who was to become his great rival following his move to Madrid in the summer of 2009.
2010 – Messi (Andres Iniesta second, Xavi third)
It was a full podium of Barcelona players as Guardiola continued to set new standards. The way Messi was dominating matches for Barcelona, scoring a previously unheard of 60 goals for the calendar year, saw him enforce his dominance over Ronaldo, whose first season at Real was a barren one.
2011 – Messi (Ronaldo second, Xavi third)
It was a hat-trick of awards for Messi, who led Barcelona to the La Liga title and another Champions League title as well. A first trophy in Spain, the Copa del Rey, and his success in becoming the first player to score 40 goals in a Liga season was not enough for Ronaldo.
2012 – Messi (Ronaldo second, Iniesta third)
Ronaldo won his first Liga trophy but his performance was completely overshadowed by that of Messi, who smashed Gerd Muller’s annual record of 85 goals. Messi also scored 50 goals in La Liga alone, became Barca’s all-time record goalscorer and scored five goals in one game: against Bayer Leverkusen in Europe.
2013 – Ronaldo (Messi second, Franck Ribery third)
Messi’s injury problems, absent for so long, came back to haunt him. Ronaldo was trophyless but his far superior goal tally across the year and his devastating hat-trick in Portugal’s World Cup play-off against Sweden saw him edge it.
2014 – Ronaldo (Messi second, Manuel Neuer third)
Ronaldo won the Champions League for the second time, having also scored his 17th goal in the competition that season to establish another record. Messi had the honour of being named the best player at the World Cup after Argentina lost in the final to Germany.
2015 – Messi (Ronaldo second, Neymar third)
The year started with speculation that Messi would leave Barcelona at the end of the season; it finished with a second treble and a fifth Ballon d’Or. This was also the year that Messi evolved further as a player. The Argentine moved out to the right wing and started to drop ever deeper into midfield.
2016 – Ronaldo (Messi second, Antoine Griezmann third)
Ronaldo scored the winning penalty in the shootout against Atleti in the Champions League final, having also won the European Championship, urging Portugal on from the sidelines. Meanwhile, Messi lost in a second consecutive Copa America final with Argentina.
Ronaldo is the odds-on favourite to draw level on five Ballons d'Or having secured a third Champions League title in four seasons, as well as La Liga too. But the second half of the year has been quite alarming, with Ronaldo stuck on a pitiful two league goals to Messi's 13. With a new wave Neymar and Kylian Mbappe coming through, the age of the duopoly could be at an end.