In 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi finished in second and third place, respectively, in the Ballon d’Or, behind deserving winner Kaka. It is the last time that someone other than the Portuguese or the Argentine has held the trophy aloft.
In modern football, we are in the After Kaka (AK) era, where conversations about the best in the world evolved from a list of many to a shortlist of two. The game that Messi and Ronaldo have played in the last 10 years is not the same one in which Kaka excelled. The duo moved the sport onwards and demanded everyone else come with them.
There’s been a redefinition of ‘great’ and ‘greatest’. But what happens to football when the duo who have helped shape what it has become are no longer around? For a sportsperson to exact superiority over all others over a period of months or even a year is a mammoth task. But for two players to obliterate any opposition to their dominance over a decade isn’t just extraordinary; it distorts the understanding of what is generally possible.