For decade now, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or.
The legendary rivals have won the award five times each, meaning some truly special players have had to settle for a proverbial bronze medal.
Once the Messi/Ronaldo duopoly comes to an end, many fans are hoping some defenders will be recognised.
Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the award, back in 2006.
We decided to go back over the last ten years and retrospectively name certain players as ‘World Defender of the Year’ for every season from 2008.
To make it fair, we used the actual Ballon d’Or results from each year, as voted for by global journalists, coaches and captains.
2008: Sergio Ramos/Nemanja Vidic
Real Madrid’s talismanic defender and United’s intimidating doorman came equal 21st in the 2008 Ballon d’Or.
The former helped Spain to their first major honour while Vidic was instrumental in Man United’s Premier League and Champions League triumphs.
Ramos was still in his right-back phase and hadn’t yet realised the benefits of a decent haircut.
2009: Nemanja Vidic
Back-to-back wins for the big Serbian, and this time he doesn’t have to share it with anyone.
He really was a monster in his prime, wasn’t he?
2010: Carles Puyol
Spain and Barcelona’s leader at the back complemented his technically-gifted team-mates with a unique heart-on-the-sleeve intensity.
Puyol would throw himself in front of everything and never backed out of a tackle.
You got the sense he wasn’t satisfied unless he left the pitch with a fresh bruise.
2011: Eric Abidal
Barca’s ultra-reliable left-back only received 0.36% of the votes in 2011 but that was more than any other defender.
The Frenchman was diagnosed with liver cancer in March of 2011.
Incredibly, he played 90 minutes of the Champions League final two months later, and was the first player to lift the trophy during the celebrations.
2012: Sergio Ramos
A second gong for Ramos in this hypothetical, retrospective, multi-year ceremony of ours.
Once again, Spain’s triumph at the Euros would have helped his cause.
His imperious performances at the heart of Real Madrid’s defence also allowed Los Blancos to wrestle the league title off rivals Barcelona.
2013: Philipp Lahm
The versatile German finished 14th in the 2013 Ballon d’Or after Bayern Munich’s impressive treble.
A flawless defender who was almost robotic in his consistency — did he ever have a bad game?
2014: Philipp Lahm
A double for the man (perhaps unfairly) known as the ‘Magic Dwarf’.
He became the first German to lift the World Cup since the country was unified.
2.9% of the vote saw him finish sixth in the 2014 Ballon d’Or, the highest position for a defender since Cannavaro won the award in 2006.
He remains a criminally underrated player.
2015: Javier Mascherano
The Argentine had given up midfield duties by 2015 and settled in alongside Gerard Pique at centre-back.
A tenacious tackler and tactically astute, Mascherano was an unsung hero of Barca’s treble-winners, led by MSN and their many goals.
He may not win any popularity contests but there’s no doubting the Portuguese centre-back’s effectiveness.
Pepe’s take-no-prisoners approach contributed to glory at club and country level in the form of a Champions League medal and a historic Euro 2016 triumph.
Experience counts for a lot at the top.
2017: Sergio Ramos
There it is, a triple crown for the Real skipper.
On this evidence, you’d have to say he’s been the best defender of the last ten years.
A big-game player who always saves his best form for glamour Champions League ties, Ramos is someone you’d want in the trenches with you.
2018 (prediction): Raphael Varane
Ramos’ apprentice surely has to be the front-runner for this year’s award?
Varane was arguably the best defender on display at the World Cup and his performances in the Champions League proved he is mature beyond his years.
Soon to be a certified world-class performer, if he isn’t already.
Congratulations to all the winners… shame these awards aren’t real.