Bayern Munich: Robert Lewandowski unfortunate to miss out on Ballon d’Or

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski missed out on Ballon d'Or on Monday, but won the best striker of the year award. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski missed out on Ballon d'Or on Monday, but won the best striker of the year award. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

The discourse around an entirely subjective award voted for by a jury of journalists does tend to get heated. As fans, we have our allegiances to players and clubs, and rightly so. The sport, as tribal as it is in its fandom, offers its fervent supporters a feeling of acceptance and unity. Our team is our beloved, which in this case is Bayern Munich.

This brings us to the monumental ceremony of the Ballon d’Or on Monday. All watched, with emotions ranging from indifference to desperate anticipation, each as valid as the other. As the rankings winded down, it was becoming increasingly obvious – it was a two-horse race.

Robert Lewandowski had a stellar calendar year as he scored 64 goals in 54 games, including 41 in 29 games, to break the iconic Gerd Müller’s record for Bayern in the Bundesliga during 1971-72 season. For the Bavarians, there was a certain element of Deja Vu. The greats of the sport have shone, just not as bright as two of the best to ever do it who have held duopoly over the award since 2008. The likes of Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer have had seasons worthy of the accolade, yet it wasn’t to be. The year prior, it was Lewandowski’s, unequivocally. However, France Football’s strange decision to cancel the award led to injustice for the Polish striker.

While many would have anticipated a dip in scoring rate for Pole, as is the norm. Unless you are Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, one would be hard-pressed to put in two seasons’ worth of a challenge. Yet, Lewandowski did it. Fans believed, perhaps their man could stand atop the footballing mountain and finally get his hands on the golden ball.

So, what does it mean? Does it really matter? Well, no. But then again, fans have added weight to the award. Over the years, the reputation of the Ballon d’Or has fluctuated, but its ethos adds considerable value to its legacy. The careers of Messi and Ronaldo will always have a crucial element of the Ballon d’Or entwined within its folklore.

On the night, hope for the Bavarian Talisman to lay claim to the award was bleak. Reports of the Argentinian bagging his seventh had made rounds. The reports turned out to be true. Lewandowski finished second, and Messi lifted the award for the record seventh time. Another feather in the proverbial cap for the Argentine, whose brilliant individual season was rewarded.

“Robbed!”, “fixed!”, “Rigged!” – among other superficial terms were thrown about on social media after the results were announced. The viewership of the Bundesliga did not undergo a drastic upturn because of the Pole. The perception of the league remains flailing, a step below the Premier League and La Liga. It continues to paint a poignant picture of a league with tremendous life and vigour, making it abundantly clear that as long as you’re competing in the German League, globally recognized awards will be difficult to come by.

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For the Pole, it may not mean as much now. An individual award hardly affects the players involved, yet his legacy will look a lot different since he deserved to win this award for two consecutive years.

For the fans, cursory conversations about a league that continues to be underappreciated will go on. Elite players and managers will get their due credit once they make a move to the “popular” leagues. The Bavarians will remain undeterred.

Football will move on; fans will move on. Legacy cannot be predicted, but for now, Robert Lewandowski is as close it gets to the best player in the world for two years on the trot. Moments from the last gasp record-breaking strike to spontaneous bicycle kicks will continue to enamour the league and the fans. Perhaps, that’s enough.