Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will continue to illuminate world football, admits Lothar Matthaus, but the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard are now serious contenders for future Ballons d’Or.
Having shared 10 Golden Balls between them during an era of unrivalled dominance, leading figures at Barcelona and Juventus have been nudged down the global pecking order for the first time in a decade.
The 2018 Ballon d’Or is now in the hands of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, with the Croatia international having added that award to his FIFA Best gong and Goal 50 accolade.
Messi and Ronaldo now face a battle to work their way back to the summit, with emerging talents such as Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe, Chelsea forward Hazard and Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann considered to be staking serious claims to their crowns.
Former Germany star Matthaus, who landed the Ballon d’Or in 1990, told Goal of a power shift in world football: “Life changes, sure Ronaldo and Messi are very important for international football but a younger generation is coming.
“Modric was not somebody from a younger generation, but he had a perfect team around him and for this, like Ronaldo and Messi, Modric profited from his team, from the quality of other players. “Because only with a team can you make results. When you have results, you can make a difference and when you make a difference, you can win the Ballon d’Or.
“Messi played with Barcelona, Ronaldo and Modric for Real Madrid, this helped them a lot to enjoy this personal result.
“In the future, maybe it will be Mbappe, he is a very good player.
“Shining from Ronaldo and Messi is not over, but there is now Mbappe, Griezman, maybe Hazard from Chelsea. A lot of players make something special.”
Modric has proved that Messi and Ronaldo can be toppled, with Matthaus of the opinion that the 33-year-old playmaker is deserving of such recognition.
He added: “Yes, the Ballon d’Or was for 10 years in the hands of Messi and Ronaldo. For me, it is the right decision.
“Ronaldo dominated the Champions League and Messi dominated the Spanish league. But during the World Cup, Portugal went out in the second round. Argentina went out as well. I did not see Messi so much. I am a fan of Messi but this World Cup was not a World Cup for Messi. Not a World Cup for Argentina.
“Modric had a great season with Real Madrid and a World Cup with Croatia.
“This is also the same for Griezmann and Mbappe from France. They won the World Cup, Griezman won the Europa League, won the Super Cup with Atletico Madrid, he scored a lot of important goals. “Modric was a captain of the Croatian team, was a key player from Real Madrid. I think they performed generally better in 2018 and it was not a surprise that we had a new Ballon d’Or winner with Luka Modric. Congratulations from my side to him.”