The Ballon d’OR is a joke. The once world-renowned award – meant to signify who the greatest player on the planet is – has gone from being the measuring stick by which footballers should be held accountable to, to being a love-in for two men. It has degenerated in the last 15 years to an old boys club, with only two players even deemed worthy of picking up the Ballon d’OR.
Admittedly, those two players have been Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and I’m not about to suggest that for a vast majority of the time that they’ve dominated the Ballon d’OR that they haven’t deserved it, but there have been moments that have raised an eyebrow or two when on or the other picked up the Golden Ball when it was obvious to anyone with eyes that they weren’t the best of the best that year.
But this year’s Ballon d’Or really took the biscuit. In case you missed the Top 10, here it is in full.
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG)
9. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
8. Kevin De Bruyne
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
5. N’golo Kante (Chelsea)
4. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
3. Jorginho (Chelsea)
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
1. Lionel Messi (PSG)
And that is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.
First off, how is Karim Benzema considered the fourth greatest player in the world? He did exactly sod all during the voting period – outside of being found guilty of being involved in a blackmail scandal – and Real Madrid won bupkiss. Second in La Liga, out at the Champions League group stage, and yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that he had a better season than Mo Salah – who has been a goal-scoring machine, even in a Liverpool team who struggled badly – and N’golo Kante who won the goddamn Champions League.
Secondly, how did Ronaldo finish sixth in the Ballon d’Or voting? The Juventus team he played for scraped into fourth place in Serie A and it’s not like he’s set the Premier League alight since his return. But the biggest insult is that they gave Lionel Messi his seventh Ballon d’Or.
Look, I’m not insane, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two greatest players that we’ve ever seen grace the field, so their total and utter lockdown of the Ballon d’OR since 2008 might be hard to take at times, but is deserved, overall. But there is no way – no way – anyone can convince me that he deserved it more than Lewandowski or Jorginho.
Lewandowski is a goal-scoring machine and would’ve won the Ballon d’OR last year if it hadn’t been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Jorginho not only helped Chelsea – who were voted Team Of The Year, by the way – to lift the Champions League, he was also the driving force behind Italy winning the delayed Euro 2020s. If I had to choose, I’d go for Jorginho over Lewandowski – and not just because of my Italian heritage – as he has gone from being the most hated player to ever pull on a Chelsea shirt, to be so indispensable to the team, such an intricate piece of the Tuchel puzzle, that he is almost irreplaceable. Ignoring his howler against Man Utd this past weekend, of course.
Yet, once again Lionel Messi picked up the Ballon d’Or, and though I wouldn’t dare suggest that the main reason behind this is that he now plies his trade for PSG, it does seem a strange coincidence that three out of the top 10 do just that, and two more are of French birth, meaning that France Football holds five of the top 10 spots.
But could there be corruption in France Football, the organization behind the Ballon d’OR? Well, why don’t you decide?
According to their Editor-in-Chief, Pascal Ferre, who spoke to The New York Times last week;
Ronaldo has only one ambition and that is to retire with more Ballon d’Or’s than Messi. I know because he has told me.”
Seems straightforward enough, right? Expect CR7 had this to say in reply;
Today’s outcome explains the comments by Pascal Ferré last week, when he stated that I confided in him that my only ambition was to finish my career with more Ballons d’Or than Lionel Messi. Pascal Ferré lied and used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication that he works for. It’s unacceptable for the person responsible for handing out such a prestigious award to lie in this way and to show disrespect to someone who has always respected France Football and the Ballon d’Or. He lied again today to justify my absence from the ceremony due to an alleged quarantine that has no reason to exist.”
They say there’s no smoke without fire and if you can smell a rat, there’s usually one hiding in plain sight…