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Ballon d’Or cancelled due to coronavirus disruption

Lionel Messi will not be able to defend his trophy

FC Barcelona v RCD Mallorca - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The Ballon d’Or award, the most prestigious individual trophy a player can win, will not be given out this year. The magazine in charge, France Football, has decided not to award it because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one. Let’s say that we started talking about (making the decision) at least two months ago,” editor Pascal Ferré told The Associated Press.

“It isn’t a decision we took lightly, but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner, and what really worried us it that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded.”

Lionel Messi is the current holder, having won it for a record sixth time last year. The Barcelona ace had just finished a campaign winning his record seventh La Liga top scorer award in a year in which he also broke La Liga’s all-time single-season assist record.

“The season started with certain rules and ended with other rules. In January and February, soccer was played in front of full stands. Then from May and June it was with empty stands,” Ferré said. “Then we had the five substitutes rule and not three. Then other changes happened in terms of the competitions, notably the final eight (eight-team knockout format) for the Champions League when it had started with home and away legs.

“The Ballon d’Or would have been decided over just three games: quarterfinal, semifinal, final. There were loads of changes (to soccer’s rules) which are totally legitimate and which we don’t contest given the worldwide health crisis, but we couldn’t consider this as a typical year. Exceptional circumstances led to an exceptional decision.”

Apart from the Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly, other favorites for the award included Robert Lewandowski and Kevin De Bruyne.

“Look at Lewandowski’s performances this year, his form has been at the level of Messi and Ronaldo,” Ferré said. “And Paris players, imagine if they win the Champions League.”

Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon are still candidates for the UEFA Champions League despite their league seasons being stopped short due to coronavirus cancellations.

Ferré insisted they would most likely award the trophy next season, even if changes remain in place.

“It would be less of a problem in terms of fairness, because this time around we’ve had two parts to the season: normal and not normal,” Ferré said. “Imagine that in 2021 all matches are played behind closed doors (without fans) and with five subs. We would adapt, because it would be comparable.”

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