The history of the Ballon d’Or is fascinating, however, it’s been overshadowed by the decade long baton passing between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Essentially they had a vice like grip on the trophy between 2008 to 2018. That’s an incredible achievement in today’s competitive footballing environment – a shutout of all other players for a full 10 years!

These two sporting icons seem to spur each other on, much like other top historic rivalries in sport. Would Roger Federer have been as good without Rafael Nadal keeping the pressure on? The Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus set the record for the most golfing majors largely because of Arnold Palmer and Gary Player nipping at his heels constantly. Just as those performances are forever remembered, there’s no doubt that we are witnessing something special when we see the spirited competition between Ronaldo and Messi.

Despite being nominated for the same awards and put into the same sentences countless times, these two players actually have vastly differing styles on the field. Lionel Messi has flawless technique while Ronaldo’s driving force is his power and strong work ethic. As far as goal scoring, they produce similar results but are worlds apart as to how they get them:

- Ronaldo’s incredible power enables him to score from the tightest angles.

- Messi’s precision and skill allow for pinpoint accuracy. He also differs from Ronaldo in that he is less hungry for goals at any expense and often provides assistance for goalscoring rather than taking the lead.

Their dribbling styles also incredibly different:

- In his early career, Ronaldo was renowned as a superb dribbler, able to outfox the wiliest of opponents on the field. Over time, however, opponents have been able to analyse him and foil his style. In fact, it may have become a weakness.

- Lionel Messi, on the other hand, is the greatest dribbler on the planet. With incredible control at close quarters, he’s truly astounding. It’s as if the ball accedes to his every wish. In this department he’s head and shoulders above his Portuguese rival.

In the air:

- Ronaldo might as well have wings because it looks as if he flies on the field. When he jumps for a ball he’s in the air for what seems like ages and invariably finds the back of the net. It’s a category where he far exceeds anyone's talent.

- On the other hand. Argentinian Messi’s feet appear firmly on the ground. It’s an aspect of his game that is lacking. His fairly diminutive size (a full 17 centimeters shorter than Ronaldo) is no doubt a hindrance. While he does score with headers, they are few and far between.

Passing:

- The Portuguese superstar is not the most generous of passers on the field, not is he particularly creative. In the early days of his career at Manchester United, he was a fairly decent sharer of the ball. But, as his career reached stratospheric heights, his creativity with passing seemed to fade. These days this aspect of his game is pretty much pedestrian in the world of football, which is something of a blight on his overall legacy.

- Messi, on the other hand, is one of the best providers of the ball to teammates. His mind boggling control and almost omniscient awareness of other players positions give him the ability to pass perfectly in almost any situation.

Speed:

- Ronaldo is like lightning on the field, with a burst of speed that can outrun any defender. His long stride also helps him gain momentum and overall this is a massive strength.

- Messi ia also quick but with an understandably shorter stride. His clever twists and turns at speed help him evade defenders and provides a devastating attack.

Comparing the two players will end up fueling endless debates and in some cases fractured friendships. So loyal are supporters that to some, suggesting their favourite of the two is inferior, is tantamount to heresy. It’s a topic that’s unlikely to die though and will no doubt rage on for years to come. Even the two superstars themselves most likely have heard the arguments. In fact, rumors swirl each year that these two greats wager between themselves as to which one will win the Ballon d'Or. 

Of course, that bet came to naught last year as shock reverberated throughout the footballing community with neither one of these two greats winning the Ballon d'Or. Finally, the stranglehold was broken, albeit it most likely for a short period. Who was the man to do it? None other than Croatian captain Luka Modrić who electrifies the midfield at Spanish Side Real Madrid. Perhaps the greatest Croatian player of all time, Modrić has been a part of the national team for every major competition since making his debut in 2006. The 2018 Ballon d'Or was no mere fluke, with the Croatian having already won multiple other awards. It was, nonetheless an intrusion on the duel between Ronaldo and Messi. One might believe that at the height of their careers these superstars would be oblivious to missing out on an award. But, such is their competitive nature that the exact opposite is true, with neither attending the ceremony. This snub was lambasted by fans and other players. Now, that the drama is blowing over, the question on everybody’s mind is “will the trophy return to one of the dynamic duo this year?”

The Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) is presented yearly and, under different names, has been around since 1956. Accredited to sports journalist Gabriel Hanot, the award recognises the best performing male player over the course of the previous year. The voting duties fall squarely on the shoulders of sporting journalists who have bared witness to all the action. Presented by France Football, the award was originally only for players from European countries. However, in 1995, that rule was amended to include all players active at European clubs, irrespective of country of origin. In 2007, it was expanded further with all professional footballers worldwide becoming eligible.

In its history, many greats have won this prestigious award, in its different iterations.

- 1965: Russian born Lev Yashin became, and remains, the only goalkeeper ever to have won the award. Known for his circus like acrobatics and imposing stare the Dynamo Moscow stalwart was also voted the best goalkeeper of the 20th century.   

- 1966: Perhaps the first legendary player to receive the accolade was Bobby Charlton, one of the true superstars of English football. Over a superb 27 year career, spent mostly at Manchester United, Charlton carved his way into history by being the clubs leading goalscorer. That record remained intact for many years until Wayne Rooney appeared on the scene.

- 1968: The first “rock ‘n’ roll soccer star”, long-haired George Best pipped Man U teammate Bobby Charlton for the award. Dubbed the “greatest footballer in the world” by none other than Brazilian legend Pele, Best was the complete package and a true legend.

- 1978/79: Kevin Keegan holds a special place in history as a dual winner of the award. Leading Hamburg’s blistering attack to two Bundesliga trophies in those years, he made an indelible mark on European football.

 1983/84/85: An astounding three-time consecutive winner comes in the form of one of the greatest players ever to play at Juventus - Michel Platini. The French star began his career in his home country before achieving legendary success at the Italian side. Platini was a midfielder who has the distinction of also scoring a huge amount of goals. In fact, he was France’s top goalscorer until 2007.

1997/99/2002: Perhaps paving the way for his namesake, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (commonly known as Ronaldo) was a Brazilian who excelled in the limelight. With overlapping careers, confusion among fans was rife when discussing the two players. His style of play was however very different to his successor, with this Ronaldo being lauded for brilliant, dribbles feints and accurate finishes. Scoring an astound 247 goals in his club career and 62 for Brazil, this legend deserves never to be confused with anyone else.

2001: Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Michael Owen, one of the all-time best Liverpool players was only awarded the trophy once. As his clubs top goal scorer between 1997-2004, he was always considered one of the most dangerous men on the field.

2007: Immediately preceding the name change of the award, another Brazilian snagged the title. Kaka was a Milan attacking midfielder who is one of only eight players to have won this award, a Fifa World Cup and a UEFA Champions League trophy.

Then the era of dominance began with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi swapping the award with each other for a decade. Garnering 5 awards each, it’s an even split and the brief respite provided by Modrić’s shock win is unlikely to prevent pundits from selecting one of the two superstars as their choice for this year's award.

The betting market is awash with plenty of value for those seeking other possibilities. 1xBet, the world’s leading online sports betting site has tremendous odds on all the top prospects in the race for the coveted award. While the list is long of possible winners, the field can be narrowed down with a bit of studying of the season so far. Big factors contributing to winning the Ballon d’ Or are not only an individual's success but also the performance of the player's entire team. Winning a league or other title goes a long way to securing serious consideration. Here are the top ten possible choices to win the award:

10 - Harry Kane: The Spurs striker (and England captain) is having a mediocre season by his standards and seems like a longshot to win. The odds bear testament to the fact that, due to limited appearances, he’s scored a full 13 goals less than the previous season. Kane developed from an awkward, gangly teenager into a feared striker. With deadly accuracy, he’s able to place his shots exactly where he wants them to go in order to score. Lauded as having an extreme passion for the game, this center-forward is considered “a pure goal-scorer”.There’s still a few matches to go - perhaps some top-flight performances and team success could propel him into serious contention.

9 - Raheem Sterling: Could Raheem Sterling have both Jamaican and UK fans squealing in delight by picking up this coveted award? Born in the Caribbean, he made England his home at age 5. This extremely talented player is a joy to watch. In 2015 he set the record for the highest transfer fee ever paid for a British player – a jaw-dropping £49 million. The natural winger is the most versatile of players, able to also play as an attacking midfielder or striker. With immense upper body strength, this diminutive player has been a brilliant addition to Spurs. With 17 goals and plenty of assistance to others on the field, Sterling may not have achieved enough to warrant serious consideration. He has, however, earned the utmost respect from both compatriots and opponents.

8 - Neymar: The flamboyant Brazilian footballer has enjoyed a purple patch since joining French club Paris Saint-Germain in 2017. Having risen to stardom at the tender age of 17 in his home country at Santos, Neymar was then scooped up by Barcelona. At the Spanish side, he excelled, but it’s truly at Paris Saint Germain that he has flourished. Averaging almost one goal a match this superstar has gained the attention of many savvy pundits and is being touted as an excellent value bet. PSG’s runaway lead at the top of the Ligue 1 won’t hurt his chances either!

7 - Sergio Agüero: This Argentinian striker may be in the imposing shadow cast by his illustrious countryman Lionel Messi, but he is nonetheless a superstar in his own right. Agüero made his debut in the Argentine Primera División at age 15 and has never looked back since, going from success to success. His first stint in Europe came at Atlético Madrid where his skills were finely honed. Since transferring to Manchester City in 2011 he’s scored an astounding 162 goals for the premier league side. Considered as one of the best strikers in the game, Agüero is an aggressive player with superb passing skills and tactical decision making. Interestingly enough he’s received high praise from none other than Lionel Messi, his national teammate. The great is quoted as saying Sergio possesses “Immense power and an incredible work ethic”. Perhaps he is the only upset result that would please Messi?

6 - Virgil Van Dijk has been an excellent addition to the defense at Liverpool. Traded for a reported £75 million from Southampton, Van Dijk has proven to be a cohesive factor in the team. He began his junior career as a right-back but after a growth spurt of 18 centimeters in the summer of 2008, he moved to a defensive position. As a right-footed center back, the Dutchmen predominantly plays in the left side of the Reds backline. With flair and creativity, combined with strong leadership skills, he’s sure to thrive even further. Van Dijk began this season with a Man of the Match award for his performance against Crystal Palace. This was closely followed by the Liverpool Standard Chartered Player of the Month for August. December saw another award in the form of the Premier League Player of the Month. Building on the season in February, Van Dijk scored twice against Watford – a landmark achievement for any defensive player. March of this year also saw his first goal in the Champions League. Taking all this into account he seems like a well-qualified candidate for the prize at long odds.

5 - Mohamed Salah: Another Liverpool star, this time a forward, comes up as a possible winner of the award. Egyptian Mohamed Salah has seen his career springboard from Cairo club El Mokawloon to various top European clubs, before settling in at Liverpool in 2017. With speed, excellent tactics and a tremendous work ethic, Salah is the real deal. An increasingly aggressive presence in the Reds offence, he’s been an invaluable asset on Liverpool's quest for an elusive EPL title.

4 - Antoine Griezmann: This French forward has become an integral team member since joining Atlético Madrid in 2014 for a then-record sum of £30 million. Although a winger at his previous club, Griezmann quickly adapted to his new position as a complete forward. During his debut season, he broke Atlético Madrid’s scoring record and the following year was named La Liga Best Player. A multiple-time nominee for the Ballon d’Or, he is a serious challenger for the award once again this year.

3 - Kylian Mbappé: Kylian Mbappé is another Frenchman who finds himself in contention for the award. Since making his pro debut at 16 for Monaco this naturally talented star has been making waves in the world of football. He’s often compared to his countryman Thierry Henry and is amongst the best dribblers currently playing. His elaborate feints and sudden changes of pace and direction have made him a sought after player. With his unique celebration style after goalscoring, he’s endeared himself to fans across the globe. Averaging slightly over one goal a match this season for his home club, he must be considered as a betting prospect at long odds.

2 - Cristiano Ronaldo: Rocket Ronaldo’s 2018/19 season was a highly anticipated one. On the back of an earth shattering €100 million transfer fee, the Portuguese made his debut for Juventus. The start at his new home was anything but smooth sailing. It wasn’t until his fourth appearance for the Italian side that he found the back of the net. Then in September in his first Champions League appearance for Juventus, he was sent off the field for “violent conduct”. This blight may well hinder his chances of picking up a 6th Ballon d’Or. After the ensuing one-game suspension, the Portuguese opened his Champions account for the Italian side and starting picking up momentum in his new surroundings.

In January this year, he provided a sublime header which was the only goal of the game against AC Milan and saw Juventus pick up the 2018 Supercoppa Italiana. March saw Ronaldo score a hattrick against Atlético Madrid and the legend was now firmly entrenched in his new home. Is it enough to secure another award though? Only time will tell, but he is currently the second favourite behind his nemesis.

1 – Lionel Messi: A strong favourite in the betting market, Lionel Messi is on track to win yet another Ballon d’Or. The Argentinian finds himself continuing his incredible run as captain of both Barcelona and his national side. Overcoming incredible obstacles as a child, Messi has brought to the field a tenacity and power of will second to none. Diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency as a child, it was Barcelona that agreed to pay his medical bills. This instilled a fierce loyalty and bond which thrives today. Messi has fulfilled his new duties as captain at Barcelona with an eagerness to serve. Early on in the season, a hattrick against PSV Eindhoven helped the Spanish side to an exemplary start in the Champions League. With a commanding lead in La Liga, another title seems a foregone conclusion. By scoring his 50th La Liga penalty, he also joined an exclusive club of players who achieved this feat. It’s been a stellar season, as most are for Messi, and he is worthy favourite to win the coveted award yet again.

Footballing talent has reached such heights that anyone on the above list, and a score of other players, deserve credit for their amazing achievements. Unfortunately only one can lift the Ballon d'Or trophy. Whom will it be? Do you fancy an outsider and a repeat upset, or, do you think one of the tag team of Messi or Ronaldo will be victorious again?

Making the correct selection is just the first step on the road to winning. The most important part of the journey is finding the best odds from a trusted bookmaker. 1xBet fits that bill perfectly, offering the best odds, service and widest range of markets. So – choose your champion today and if you want to “put your money where your mouth is”, visit 1xBet for a wager at the best odds!