9 Players Who Would've Won the Ballon d'Or if Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi Didn't Exist

It's that time of year again. Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? 

The pair have been number one and two in the race for the Ballon d'Or ever year since 2008 - and they came second and third respectively in 2007. The last man to win the award other than the incredible duo was Kaka, who had helped his Milan side avenge the heartache of Istanbul to beat Liverpool in Athens. 

For the nine years both Ronaldo and Messi have shared the award, and the look set to take first and second yet again this year. But who would've won the award had the pair not become footballers? Or existed, for that matter? 

Here are the nine players who have finished third behind the legends...

1. Fernando Torres (2008)

Having joined Liverpool in the summer of 2007, Torres quickly became the best striker in the world during that season and fully deserved his place in the top three for the Ballon d'Or. 

The striker scored 24 league goals in his first year in the Premier League, including three hat tricks, earning him 179 votes. 

2. Xavi (2009)

With Lionel Messi taking home his first Ballon d'Or, his Barcelona teammate, Xavi, finished third. 

The Spanish midfielder took home 170 votes and arguably deserved to be higher up, after winning player of the tournament at Euro 2008 having helped his side lift the trophy. 

3. Xavi (2010)

Xavi again finished third one year later, this time behind Messi and Andres Iniesta, making it a trio for Barcelona. He helped his side win La Liga once again, this time with a record 99 points, which included a 2-0 win at the Bernabeu with Xavi recording both assists. 

The Spaniard had been named 'Champions League Midfielder of the Season' the year before, and he was arguably becoming the best midfielder of the decade. 

4. Xavi (2011)

Barca's midfield maestro came third for the third year in a row. Cristiano Ronaldo came back into the top three replacing Andres Iniesta, but it was Lionel Messi who took home his third trophy. 

However, the Spaniard did beat Messi to one award, pipping him to the 'Player of the Year' award from World Soccer Magazine. 

5. Andres Iniesta (2012)

Another Spaniard and Barca player replaced Xavi in the 2012 awards, as Andres Iniesta took third place behind Ronaldo and Messi, with the Argentine winning his fourth Ballon d'or in a row. 

Iniesta scored in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, but couldn't help his side progress to the final. Although his performances were enough to see him take third spot. 

6. Franck Ribery (2013)

Breaking the Barcelona trend, Ronaldo took top spot away from Messi and Franck Ribery came in to take third spot, replacing both Andres Iniesta and Xavi. 

The Frenchman won the Champions League with Bayern Munich and was named UEFA Best Player in Europe, although it wasn't enough to take him above the two legends. 

7. Manuel Neuer (2014)

With Bayern Munich starting to dominate Europe and the Bundesliga yet again, their players were getting deserved credit. First Ribery in 2013, and then Manuel Neuer, who finished third in 2014. 

The German shot stopper was the arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the time and his heroics were recognised, as he earned a well respected third place behind second place Messi and first place Ronaldo. 

8. Neymar (2015)

After finally adapting to life in Spain, Neymar finished third when his performances could easily have pushed him higher up in the rankings. 

The Brazilian, alongside Messi and Luis Suarez, scored 122 goals in the 2014-15 season and he continued his success into the following campaign, which led to both club and individual success. 

9. Antoine Griezmann (2016)

Receiving 198 votes, Antoine Griezmann was well off the top but fully deserved his place in the top three. Ronaldo took home the trophy once more, but his performances for club and country helped him replace Neymar to take home the accolade. 

Griezmann was pivotal for France in helping them reach the final of Euro 2016, but Ronaldo's Portugal just edged them in extra time.