Ballon d’Or needs to return to being about football over politics
Comparing the Ballon d’Or to Eurovision is perhaps a tad harsh, but now more than ever, players are counting on their allies for votes and tactically voting to provide a chosen winner, rather than a more deserving winner.
Take Eurovision, there are some instances where a nation could produce four minutes of mainly silence with the odd symbol bash thrown in and this would still be enough to secure them the maximum 12 points.
Azerbaijan voting for Turkey is one of the more obvious examples, while Greece have been handed 12 points by Cyprus in every Eurovision instalment since 2002.
Prior to 2010, the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year were separate entities, but since the two were merged, it does appear that players spearheading team achievements are being neglected.
2010 is the ultimate example, when Wesley Sneijder failed to even be rewarded with a top-three finish, despite helping Inter Milan win the treble of Serie A, the Italian domestic cup and the Champions League, while no player bettered his goal tally of five at the World Cup with Holland reaching the final.
This year it is Franck Ribery that has found that a treble is not enough to win the Ballon d’Or, despite finishing top of the media vote by a landslide margin.
The political nature of the voting has been plainly obvious before, none moreso than in 2012 when the coach of the Cameroon national team gave his top vote to Samuel Eto’o, despite the striker failing to guide Anzhi in Russia to a single trophy and netting only 19 goals in the year.
After scoring 69 goals for club and country in 2013, it is quite baffling how so many voters decided that Ronaldo was not even worthy of finishing in the top three.
Messi kept his vote entirely Barcelona, Ronaldo obviously didn’t vote for Messi either, Man City captain Vincent Kompany left Ronaldo out to include fellow Belgian Eden Hazard and Martin Skrtel picked Luis Suarez first in a year where he was banned for biting a fellow professional.
There were some examples of voting in the right manner, with Brazil coach Felipe Scolari resisting the temptation to include Thiago Silva or Neymar in his list, Silva left out Neymar because he didn’t realise he could vote for him and Italy manager Cesare Prandelli went totally hipster and left all three favourites out of his choices.
Perhaps Israel coach Eli Gutman deserves some special credit, even if perhaps going slightly overboard with his Bayern 1-2-3 of Philipp Lahm, Ribery and Arjen Robben.
The change to the FIFA Ballon d’Or may have made the sample size bigger, but it has only made it harder for the star player of a superstar team to get the award, unless that player happens to represent Real Madrid or Barcelona.