The 50 Ballon d’Or contenders the last time Messi wasn’t nominated – & the three still playing today

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Barcelona's Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho shows his Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) award, as European Footballer of the Year, before their Spanish First Division soccer match against Sevilla at Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain December 11, 2005.

Lionel Messi isn’t on the Ballon d’Or shortlist for the first time since 2005 – as that year’s list of contenders shows, football has changed immeasurably over the course of the 17 years that the forward has ruled the world of football.

It was Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho that won France Football’s prestigious golden ball that year, having been at his very best during the 2004-05 La Liga campaign.

The Argentinian made his debut aged 17 in October 2004 and would swiftly catch the eye as one of the most promising youngsters in world football. He received his first Ballon d’Or nomination in 2006, where he finished 20th after receiving one vote. World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro won it that year.

In 2007, Messi finished on the podium for the first time, behind the winner Kaka and runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi went on to finish second, behind Ronaldo, in 2008, before lifting the first of a record seven Ballon d’Or in 2009 thanks to his starring role in Barcelona’s historic treble-winning 2008-09 campaign.

He won it four years in a row, before going on to lift it again in 2015, 2019 and 2021. He also finished in the top two every year between 2008 and 2021, with the exception of 2018, when Luka Modric, Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe comprised the top four.

Messi is the holder of the most recent award, largely thanks to captaining Argentina to a Copa America last summer,  but he won’t be retaining the individual accolade – he’s not even made the 30-man shortlist, having had a comparatively underwhelming debut season at PSG. Karim Benzema is the outstanding favourite to win in 2022.

“Inevitably, Lionel Messi, with his 15 appearances in a row since 2006, his seven Ballon d’Or victories, his title holder status, weighs very heavily when it comes to the final choice,” France Football’s deputy editor-in-chief Emmanuel Bojan explained.

“The Argentinian was part of the discussions to integrate the 30, but the new criteria for the Ballon d’Or were unfavourable to him: disappearance of the criterion of a player’s entire career, and new periodicity, modelled on a season of football and no longer over a calendar year, which does not make it possible to integrate the Copa America of July 11, 2021.

“And then, it must be admitted that his first season in Paris was very disappointing both in terms of the visual impression and the statistics.”

A whole era has come and gone since Messi last failed to be nominated – as the list of that year’s contenders attests.

The best player in the world back then, Ronaldinho, retired back in 2015.

Second-place Frank Lampard and third-place Steven Gerrard are now managing Premier League clubs. Thierry Henry, Andriy Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo, Zinedine Zidane, Wayne Rooney, Xavi Hernandez, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Patrick Vieira are among the other star names that have since held high-profile jobs as managers.

Meanwhile, David Beckham is the president of Inter Miami, Ronaldo Nazario is now the majority shareholder of La Liga club Real Valladolid, Samuel Eto’o is the president of Cameroonian FA, Juninho Pernambucano is the sporting director of Lyon, Deco is the agent of Barcelona star Raphinha and Paolo Maldini is the technical director of Serie A champions AC Milan.

Just three players from that 2005 Ballon d’Or ranking are still playing today – 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic at AC Milan and 44-year-old Gianluigi Buffon at Serie B club Parma.

Here’s the 2005 Ballon d’Or ranking in full:

1. Ronaldinho
2. Frank Lampard
3. Steven Gerrard
4. Thierry Henry
5. Andriy Shevchenko
6. Paolo Maldini
7. Adriano
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
9. Kaka
=10. Samuel Eto
=10. John Terry
12. Juninho
13. Claude Makelele
=14. Juan Roman Riquelme
=14.Petr Cech
=14. Didier Drogba
=14. Michael Ballack
18. Zinedine Zidane
19. Gianluigi Buffon
=20. Jamie Carragher
=20. Cristiano Ronaldo
22. Michael Essien
=23. Luis Garcia
=23. Pavel Nedved

READ: A forensic analysis of the night Real fans stood to applaud Ronaldinho

Received no votes but shortlisted:

– David Beckham
– Mauro Camoranesi
– Fabio Cannavaro
– Gregory Coupet
– Cris
– Deco
– Dida
– Emerson
– Luis Figo
– Diego Forlan
– Roy Makaay
– Michael Owen
– Park Ji-sung
– Raul
– Arjen Robbem
– Roberto Carlos
– Robinho
– Ronaldo
– Wayne Rooney
– Lilian Thuram
– David Trezeguet
– Mark van Bommel
– Ruud van Nistelrooy
– Patrick Vieira
– Xavi


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