From 2008 to 2017, no player in the world other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or. Here, however, are the players who would have been awarded the prestigious individual prize in that period had the two five-time winners not been around.
Click through the gallery above to see the players who could have won the Ballon d'Or between 2008 and 2017 in an alternative universe.
Before last year, the last player other than Messi or Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or prize was Brazil playmaker Kaka. The former AC Milan star beat both of the superstars to the award in 2007, but a famous decade of dominance began the very next year.
The Portuguese forward, who was still a Manchester United player at the time, won his first Ballon d'Or in 2008, with Messi finishing in second place. Had neither of them been around, though, the award might have gone to then-Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who, on top of having a great year with the Reds, won the UEFA European Championship with Spain and finished third on the podium.
In 2009, third place was given to former FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez. The Spaniard had enjoyed a spectacular calendar year, winning six trophies, including the coveted UEFA Champions League.
The following year was a special year for the Catalan giants as a club as the final three nominees for the 2010 Ballon d'Or prize featured three Barcelona players in Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. Given that Iniesta had scored the winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, he was ranked slightly ahead of his midfielder partner Xavi, but in a different world, one without Messi, the silky Spaniard might have been awarded the prize that year.
In 2011, it was Xavi who finished third to Messi and Ronaldo, while the following year, it was Iniesta again on the podium. In 2013, former Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery might have won the prize if not for the two superstars, after a brilliant calendar year with the Bavarians.
The Frenchman helped inspire the Bundesliga giants to an unforgettable treble that year by winning the league title, the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League, while Bayern also won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2013. Those achievements, however, were not deemed good enough to beat Ronaldo to the main prize, and not even Messi to second place.
A few other big names might have been crowned winners if not for Messi and Ronaldo – click through the gallery above to see all those players who could have been awarded the Ballon d'Or in a world without the Barcelona forward and Juventus star.
Luka Modric was the man to finally end the decade of dominance in 2018, after winning the Champions League and captaining Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.
Do you think any of these players deserved to win the prize over Messi and Ronaldo? Let us know in the comments section below.