Best Striker In The World Misses Out On Ballon D’Or Trophy

Robert Lewandowsk
Photo Credit: AP

A Robert Lewandowski Ballon d’Or seemed inevitable in 2020, only for the award to be cancelled. In 2021, the Pole once again had a compelling case, but fell just short.

Many all-time greats have missed out on the ultimate individual award in football in the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo era.

Lewandowski, though, has arguably been the most unfortunate given the standard of his play and the relative declines of Messi and Ronaldo.

Long been among the world’s best centre forwards, Lewandowski has taken a further step over the last two or three seasons, taking an unquestionable lead as the greatest striker in the world.

He has been prolific for Bayern under various managers, seamlessly adapting to new tactics and a changing supporting cast.

Across both domestic and European action, he has consistently scored above a goal per game. In 63 Bundesliga and Champions League starts since the beginning of 2020-21, the former Dortmund man has scored 81 goals.

These are numbers that sit favourably even alongside the production of peak Messi and Ronaldo. He’s well and truly living up to the Lewangoalski nickname.

Ballon d’Or 2021

The 2021 Ballon d’Or race was a point of controversy. Messi winning was not a surprise as such, but it was a confirmation that Lewandowski had been hard done by.

While a new award was created to honour his phenomenal performances over the last two years, it was little more than a token for a player who deserves the Ballon d’Or win on his CV.

Messi’s 613 points was clear of Lewandowski’s 580. It was even a bigger margin than Messi beat Virgil van Dijk by in 2019. Lewandowski finished eighth that year, just ahead of Bernardo Silva.

Robert Lewandowski

The award almost certainly would have been his in 2020, and it was a relatively close race in 2021 compared to other votes, but it’s hard not to wonder if the Pole has missed his chance.

Lewandowski is still at his peak. He’s also turning 34 in August. Decline will hit sooner or later, and he might be dependent on team success. A Champions League win for Bayern in 2022 is his best opportunity.

The 2021 award was Lewandowski’s first near miss. He finished fourth back in 2015, but with just 4.17% of the vote, he was nowhere near breaking the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.

Lewandowski Ballon d’Or Reaction

Words like ‘scandal’ and ‘robbed’ have been thrown around about Lewandowski not winning the Ballon d’Or.

Lewandowski, though, has generally been gracious. Messi, the eventual 2021 winner, was complimentary of Lewandowski after winning his seventh Ballon d’Or.

In his acceptance speech, the Argentine said, “You deserve your Ballon d’Or. Last year everyone agreed that you were the winner.

“Hopefully France Football can give it to you to have in your home, because you were the true winner if it weren’t for the pandemic. You should have one in your house too.”

Messi added, “You broke records, and you, too, would have deserved to win this. You had an incredible season.”

While the Ballon d’Or has eluded him, Lewandowski has won plenty of other individual honours, including the FIFA Best Men’s Player in 2020 and 2021.

There has, however, been some controversy over the voting. Speaking to Polish magazine Pilka Noza, Lewandowski hinted at some frustration with Messi’s voting.

“I voted for [Messi] because I appreciate what he’s done. Messi said he would vote for me for the Ballon d’Or, but he didn’t vote for me for The Best. That’s his decision. But anyway, I won the prize, so it’s easier for me to accept it.”

Lewandowski also spoke of how his view of the awards has changed, appreciating the acknowledgement from fellow players and managers.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about these two awards, FIFA’s The Best and the Ballon d’Or, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the FIFA award matters more.

“Only journalists vote for the Ballon d’Or… I’m happy that the professionals vote for The Best. The team captains and the coaches, they can assess our performance in a realistic and objective way, because they know how much each game, each record and each injury costs us.”

The 2022 Ballon d’Or Race

Lewandowski is building a career which could edge him into the discussion for a future Ballon d’Or dream team. Only years after he hangs up his boots will we know what his legacy is.

He’s accumulated honours, including being named in the IFFHS World Team of the Decade. Adding a Ballon d’Or would complete a near-perfect career for Lewandowski, but what are his chances of finally winning the award?

Early Ballon d’Or odds post Lewandowski as the joint favourite in 2022 with Messi. Mo Salah and Kylian Mbappe trail close behind.

Messi hasn’t been producing at anywhere near his usual levels at PSG, but he’s bound to be in the race throughout the year regardless. Salah is arguably the best player in the world right now, and Mbappe is all but guaranteed to be a Ballon d’Or winner at some point.

Lewandowski is the most consistent, though equally the most limited of the four frontrunners. He’s a pure goal scorer – critics could claim he’s no more than the beneficiary of playing in a great team.

Providing he stays injury free and maintains these levels of performance, Lewandowski is going to be in the mix for the Ballon d’Or. Perhaps some voters swing to him to compensate for missing out in previous years.

Given the talents he’s up against, though, the most likely outcome seems to be that he is forever thought of as one of the best Ballon d’Or runners up.