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There is no question who should have been awarded the Ballon d'Or this year

Robert Lewandowski completed a memorable season by helping Bayern win the Champions League last night.

Robert Lewandowski celebrates with the Champions League trophy.
Robert Lewandowski celebrates with the Champions League trophy.

THERE IS ONE question nearly always asked at the end of every season, but this year is an exception.

2020, it was confirmed last June, would be the first time there would no Ballon d’Or winner since the award’s inception in 1956.

“There will be no edition in 2020, because it turns out, after thoughtful consideration, that all the conditions are not met”, said Pascal Ferré, editor-in-chief of France Football. 

“We believe that such a singular year cannot –and should not — be treated as an ordinary one.” 

Every year when the award is up for grabs, there is usually plenty of debate over who should win it. Often, there is no single obvious candidate. 

In recent times, it has invariably been a toss-up between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, with one of the duo having prevailed in 11 of the past 12 seasons — Luka Modric being the sole exception in 2018.

It feels strange, therefore, that the one year in which the identity of the rightful Ballon d’Or winner feels more unequivocal than ever proves the occasion when the prize is not awarded.

The coronavirus crisis and in particular, the premature conclusion to Ligue 1, are two of the main reasons why the award was cancelled.

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Yet even if everything had taken place as normal, it seems highly unlikely that anyone would have had a more impressive season than Robert Lewandowski.

The Polish international may not have been at his most potent in last night’s cagey Champions League final in which Bayern beat PSG 1-0 — though even on a quiet night, he nearly produced the moment of the match, turning sharply and hitting the post from the edge of the area during one standout moment in the first half.

Nonetheless, the former Lech Poznań striker can still reflect on an astonishing season, with 55 goals in 47 appearances helping Hansi Flick’s side secure a famous treble. 15 of these have come in the Champions League, leaving him just two goals short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time record for a single season.

So 2020 has unquestionably been Lewandowski’s standout campaign — he has never even finished in the top three of the Ballon d’Or voting — and the fact that he has done it aged 32 is further testament to his impeccable discipline and durability.

55 goals is a higher tally than Lionel Messi has managed in any of his last five seasons, though the Argentine international has eclipsed that feat on three occasions — in 2011-12 (73), 2012-13 (60) and 2014-15 (58). Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has only twice had a superior season in front of goal — 2011-12 (60) and 2014-15 (61).

Lewandowski himself has always been prolific, just not to this extent — his previous best campaign, 2016-17, saw him score 43 goals in 47 appearances.

Coach Hansi Flick deserves enormous credit too, inheriting a side that were fourth in the Bundesliga and had just been beaten 5-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt and taking them on an unbeaten run that has lasted since December. In addition, he has won 33 of his 36 matches in charge, despite initially only taking over as interim coach, before the decision to offer him a new contract until June 2023 became a no-brainer.

Yet as much as Flick, Lewandowski has been at the heart of one of the most remarkable campaigns in football history and knowledge of that is surely better than the satisfaction derived from any individual accolade.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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