France Football, the organizers of the annual award, made the announcement on Monday afternoon after they determined that the abridged campaigns for several of Europe’s top clubs due to the COVID-19 outbreak would not allow for sufficient evidence to crown the world’s top player of 2020.
This will make the first time since 1956 that the prestigious award will not be handed out.
“For the first time since 1956, the Ballon d’Or will take a break. There will be no edition in 2020, because it turns out, after thoughtful consideration, that all the conditions are not met,” France Football editor Pascal Ferre said.
“We believe that such a singular year cannot – and should not – be treated as an ordinary one.”
This season has certainly been anything but ordinary. The majority of football leagues in Europe ceased activity in March in a bid to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, as well as to keep players and fans from catching the virus.
Several European leagues have since kicked back into gear, but the stop-start nature of the various domestic campaigns – coupled with the postponement of Euro 2020 – has led organizers to believe that it would be unfair to highlight a standout candidate for the award.
“From a sports perspective, two months (January and February), out of the eleven generally required to form an opinion and decide who should lift the trophies, represent far too little to gauge and judge; without forgetting that the other games were played – or will be played – in unordinary conditions (behind closed doors, with five replacements, Champions League’s Final 8 played in a single game),” Ferre continued.
“Finally, the equity that prevails for this honorary title will not be warranted, especially when it comes to accounting and preparation: all the award seekers will not be in the same boat, some having seen their season cut short.
“Therefore, how can we establish a fair comparison? To avoid overly convoluted calculations and projections, we chose the least bad of the options.”
Prior to this announcement, a prominent online bookmaker had installed last year’s winner, Lionel Messi, as the early frontrunner to claim what would be a record seventh award but Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent form for Juventus placed him as second favorite for the honor – in which case he would tied old rival Messi at the top of the all-time list.
Messi pipped Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk to the award last year, with the Dutch defender also tipped to have been in the running this year alongside Anfield teammate Sadio Mane.
Kevin de Bruyne, Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski were also considered to be frontrunners.
It is likely that the news will come as a blow to Ronaldo, who turns 36 in February and will now face diminishing opportunities to draw level with Messi at the top of the charts.
France Football, though, maintain that their decision is vital to maintaining the integrity of the award.
“Protecting the credibility and legitimacy of such an award also means ensuring its flawlessness over time,” Ferre said.
“The Ballon d’Or will gather again the football big family and enthusiasts in 2021, to relive the happiness that surrounds the ceremonies as we have experienced them in recent years.”