The Context of: The Ballon d'Or Hysteria
Let me start by stating that I am criticizing people's behavior and anger when it comes to the Ballon d'Or is that once upon a time, I was just like them. I am not saying I am better than anyone, all I am saying is that right now I am in a different place when it comes to my relationship with football.
The Ballon d'Or and any of the awards similar to it are both a genius and a stupid idea at the same time. Before I tell you why it is a genius idea, let me start by saying why it is stupid.
What is the Ballon d'Or?
If you were to treat it like the MVP award in the NBA, an award with a specific system to determine its winner relatively speaking of course, then you're looking at it wrong. If you were looking at it from a perspective of a popularity contest, depending on a player and his team's ability to promote a player, then you'd be right.
If you see it that way then the discussions should really ease up in their tone. However, that's not happening. What started as childish anger done by fans, is now shown in action by respected analysts, clubs' social media accounts, and players themselves.
I know it is not all about popularity
If that was the case, then Cristiano Ronaldo would win it every year. CR7 is a moving institution, with a giant agent like Jorge Mendes and the giant company of GestiFute helping him. The latter of which is a giant company that purchases entire clubs. Not to mention CR7's own companies and large social media following.
But, as I said in my post about Messi winning, popularity plays a big part.
The voting map
The map itself deserves anyone interested in the subject to take a closer look at it.
9 countries' representatives put Messi in their votes, Lewandowski wasn't even in the top 5
5 countries' representatives put Lewandowski in their votes, Messi wasn't even in the top 5.
There's a lot to break down, but there's no rhyme or reason when it comes to picks. Even some countries where football is most popular had choices that might not make sense to anyone reading this. Brazil, for example, their top 5 picks didn't include Messi or Lewandowski.
Paul Kennedy is one of the journalists who voted, he responded to a tweet about the criteria for picking the players' stated that the criteria people who vote were given was this
- Individual and team performance in the 2021 calendar year;
- Talent and sportsmanship of the player.
- The player’s overall career.
My question is, what do those things even mean. You could really make anything out of this. And with that third part, what can't you use as an excuse for your pick?
I want everyone reading this to take out their personal opinion and make a top 5 based on that criteria while explaining what they think each one means. I doubt we will come to the same conclusion if we just follow the criteria genuinely.
You could even look at years where that didn't even matter. When I ask the question (What is the Ballon d'Or?), it is not a rhetorical question. I genuinely can't make sense of it, same with Fifa's The Best, Global Soccer, and whatever else award.
Some people are citing goals to give Lewa the edge, some cite assists and the precious international title for Messi, some cite the UCL and the Euros for Jorginho.
Like I said in the aforementioned post, does Jorginho deserve for being one player of two teams that won titles? Does Lewa for the number of goals and winning two titles in that calendar year in a great team? Does Messi for winning the underwhelming Copa América while being in one of the two teams nominated to win it?
You can make an argument for everyone with that criteria
My question would be, why wouldn't Gianluigi Donnarumma win it? He was the decisive factor in the penalty shootouts that brought the Euro title to Italy and took AC Milan to the UCL for the first time in years. Why not Nicolò Barella for breaking Juventus' hold of the Serie A run and winning the Euro?
I could really make a case with micro points for anyone in the top 50. I mean, why does the winner have to be from Europe or based on their performance in Europe and/or South America?
Simple questions with complicated answers
Let's get to a simpler question than who was the best player last year. In his analysis, David Sumpter tried to answer a much simpler question (Who can beat Kevin De Bruyne in terms of passing style?). I am not going into what the answer was, but I will take a tour into what question he used to determine them.
He used the expected threat from passing to determine the answer. What is lacking is the amount of context for just the passing style. He added some, but it will always lack things like what kind of team the player is in, football style, and was on the pitch where the players were along with how they were standing when the pass was made.
Add to that, the opponents' movement, whether it was counter-attack or build-up play, the movement of surrounding players. Finally, he worked under the assumption that expected threat passes can only be found in midfielders, disqualifying fullbacks like Arnold and Cancelo.
The reason I am mentioning this is that you can't answer a simple question in football like passing style without running into headache-inducing complications. It is impossible to have the best full team, starters and bench, without overlooking so many players and numbers. Let alone the best player.
That's why awards that are given to one player as if they were the best are a stupid idea.
Why it is a genius idea
Everything we just mentioned above and many more things that didn't make the list. Every reason you have to why a certain player deserves the award, every reason you have to why a certain player doesn't deserve the award.
The conversations never stop, and will never stop about who deserves the award. How many people still bring up Wesley Sneijder deserving the award 12 years ago?
It is a massive event where you have a case for any of the players nominated and you await to be proven right or get angry if you are proven wrong. Even though, there are no criteria to prove either.
It is a genius idea to take advantage of millions who think it actually proves something. It never actually did.