You might think that football is a game that’s all about attacking and scoring goals if you look at the winners of the Ballon d’Or over the years.
Historically, strikers dominated the award for the “best” player in football, even before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo captured the duopoly. In decades past, midfielders might have had a chance, but they were mostly attacking players. Defenders (and goalkeepers) might not even cosidered. The award has only been won by 1 goalkeeper, Lev Yashin, and 3 defenders (Fabio Cannavaro, Matthias Sammer, Franz Beckenbauer) – and arguably only Cannavaro as a defensive player.
It is likely that this symbolism will become more relevant again as we grow into the post-Messi era. We’re going to start it off with N’Golo Kanté, who has just led Chelsea to a Champions League title with a Man of the Match performance in the final after keying a rather dominant run through the knockout rounds.
“If you play with [Kanté], you play with half a man more because he gives intensity and volume that is outstanding and is unique. It is a pleasure to coach him, a big gift for me, such a big helper on the pitch; and don’t underestimate his quality in using [the ball], escaping the pressure.”
-Thomas Tuchel, March 2021
Kanté may have not had his best Chelsea season, but he’s been amazing on the biggest stages. It’s usually those performances that convince voters – just look at Cannavaro for the 2006 World Cup or Sammer for Euro 96.
He has already finished 8th and 11th in the voting in 2017 and 2018, so he is no stranger to the polls. His teammates and coaches have recognized his talent. They now have the chance to be recognized by all of football with the highest individual award.
It’s time to elevate the Ballon d’Or by giving it to N’Golo