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The Ballon d’Or has been a two-horse race for a decade now.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s era of dominance, while fully deserved, has somewhat taken the excitement out of the award.


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For a bit of fun, we went back over the last ten years of results to find out what would have happened if, for some weird reason, only midfielders were eligible for the sport’s most prestigious individual prize.

Let’s tinker with history…

2008: Xavi

AFP

Never forget how easy this man made it look

Actual ranking: 5th

Runners-up: Kaka, Steven Gerrard

Barcelona’s metronome takes the first gong.

Xavi was the beating heart of one of the most dominant teams of the modern era.

Good to see Stevie G on the podium.

2009: Xavi

You can probably see where this is going…

AFP

You can probably see where this is going…

Actual ranking: 3rd

Runners-up: Andres Iniesta, Kaka

Back-to-back  wins for the Catalan passmaster.

Only Messi and Ronaldo received a greater percentage of the votes in 2009, a treble-winning year for Barca.

2010: Andres Iniesta

Best feeling in the world?

AP:Associated Press

Best feeling in the world?

Actual ranking: 2nd

Runners-up: Xavi, Wesley Sneijder

Xavi letting his mate in on the action.

Iniesta capped off a masterful season by scoring the winner in the World Cup final — a goal he dedicated to the recently departed Espanyol captain Dani Jarque.

Many thought Sneijder should have won the award outright.

The Dutchman led his country to the World Cup final and was instrumental in Inter’s treble.

All these midfielders finished above Ronaldo in the 2010 voting — the Portuguese star only scored 41 goals…

2011: Xavi

Him again

PA:Press Association

Him again

Actual ranking: 3rd

Runners-up: Andres Iniesta, Mesut Ozil

Order is restored.

Such is the Barcelona pair’s dominance during this era that it’s more interesting to discuss the third-placed midfielder.

Ozil was dishing out assists to anyone in the same postcode in 2011 as well as reaching a peak in terms of goal return for club and country combined.

2012: Andres Iniesta

It would be boring if it weren’t so bloody impressive

EPA

It would be boring if it weren’t so bloody impressive

Actual ranking: 3rd

Runners-up: Xavi, Andrea Pirlo

Iniesta’s turn again, is it? Sounds about right.

Being the best player in the world after Ronaldo and Messi is a prestigious honour and should be recognised with suitable admiration.

Pirlo a popular choice for the final podium spot.

2013: Franck Ribery

Which one of Xavi or Inies- oh, hang on…

Getty – Contributor

Which one of Xavi or Inies- oh, hang on…

Actual ranking: 3rd

Runners-up: Andres Iniesta, Arjen Robben

Wake up everyone, we’ve got a winner who isn’t Xavi or Iniesta.

And a deserved one too, Ribery inspired Bayern Munich to the treble with a string of electric performances.

His mate on the opposite flank takes the bronze medal despite a campaign blighted by injury.

2014: Arjen Robben

Flying Dutchman

AP:Associated Press

Flying Dutchman

Actual ranking: 4th

Runners-up: James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos

No Barcelona players on the podium at all this time round!

All three benefited from impressive World Cup campaigns but Robben’s return of 21 goals from 45 games for Bayern gave him the edge.

2015: Eden Hazard

Trademark sleeve hold

EPA

Trademark sleeve hold

Actual ranking: 8th

Runners-up: Andres Iniesta, Yaya Toure

A deserved win for the uber-talented Hazard here but it’s important to note the actual ranking.

Forwards were particularly dominant in 2015, occupying the top six spots with Manuel Neuer slotting in at 7th.

Iniesta returns while Toure takes third — the Ivorian somehow missed out on a spot in 2014 despite scoring 20 league goals from centre-midfield for Man City.

2016: Riyad Mahrez

Back-to-back Premier League representatives

AP:Associated Press

Back-to-back Premier League representatives

Actual ranking: 7th

Runners-up: Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal

A big shake-up here as Leicester’s miracle sees previous unknown entity Mahrez rocket to the very top.

We should say that if you class Gareth Bale as a midfielder then he would have won in 2016, though we reckon he’s a wide forward.

Pogba and Vidal’s respective form for Juventus and Bayern see them gain retrospective recognition, though it should be noted that both received just 0.24% of the vote…

2017: Luka Modric

Poetry in motion

Getty Images – Getty

Poetry in motion

Actual ranking: 5th

Runners-up: N’Golo Kante, Isco

A deserved crown for Real Madrid’s cultured Croatian.

Los Blancos’ stranglehold on the Champions League owes a lot to Modric’s temperament, experience and technical ability in the middle of the park.

Kante is the first truly defensive midfielder in this list.

The Frenchman’s inexhaustible engine has won him admirers all over the globe.

2018 (prediction): Luka Modric

Guesswork

Getty – Contributor

Guesswork

Runners-up: Kevin De Bruyne, N’Golo Kante

No longer based in fact, but we reckon Modric will make it back-to-back wins come January.

His efforts at the World Cup were reminiscent of Sneijder in 2010 and Rodriguez in 2014.

De Bruyne will push him close, especially if enjoys a similar start to the 2018/19 season as he did the one previous.


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