FIFA Balon D’Or 2013 is turning out to be an exciting event. It always is but this time for different reasons. Not just because of the competition we have this year but also because of the dramatic build up to the event. I don’t there’s a touch and go situation like some of the recent years. Also, I’ll be keenly observing the event this time for related drama – who makes it to the event and who doesn’t, what their reactions will be, how the successes and failures are taken this time and such things.
The voting for Balon D’Or opened on 29th Oct and ended on 29th Nov. The original deadline was 15th Nov and FIFA extended this deadline till 29th Nov and also allowed the votes already cast to be changed. The reasoning from FIFA for the extension was that the polling was very low. Either that or the good boy was trailing in votes. By the way, that was a brilliant hattrick by the evil commander in the world cup play-offs.
A day before the Balon D’Or voting was opened, the FIFA president had to answer the inevitable football question: ‘Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo’. I generally would not have been surprised by such a response from Sepp Blatter. But I thought, with the Balon D’Or polling about to begin, he might say something that’s absolutely neutral and a response befitting of a FIFA president. His response was in cheap taste and downright silly, probably trying to be funny, but he ended that response with ‘I prefer Messi’.
Probably, all this was a cunning plan from Blatter to make the event much more anticipated and thereby increasing the TV viewership for the event. You know how FIFA and Blatter go about planning. ‘What? The summers are hot in Qatar?’
The top contenders are Ronaldo, Messi and Ribery. If you wonder what’s Ribery doing here, well, his team won the treble last season and he played a crucial role in their success. Just like Wesley Sneijder did in 2010 where he won the treble and even scored 5 goals in the world cup as a midfielder but couldn’t even get to the podium. Even worse was Diego Milito who didn’t even make it to the 23-man shortlist. 30 goals and 6 assists and crucial contribution to the treble including a brace in the champions league final couldn’t get him a place in the 23-man shortlist.
Anyway, coming back to this list – Messi the four-time winner of Balon D’Or is in contention to make it five-in-a-row. Personally I’d say he deserved to win two of the four. Ronaldo is looking to win his second. If he does manage to win against all odds and a FIFA president, he would probably the one player who’s won this award again after a long gap. Most players that have won this award more than once would do it in successive years in alternate years. Ronaldo can win it after 4 years. Ribery, who won the UEFA player of the year award, would also be a favourite.
If all the final three players in FIFA Balon D’Or podium are going to be from the UEFA leagues – Ronaldo, Messi & Ribery – we already have the winner. Ribery has already won the UEFA player of the year award for 2012/13 beating Ronaldo and Messi by a handsome margin. The thing is, the UEFA award is based on performances during a season while the FIFA award is based on performances during a calendar year. The man of the second half of 2013 was Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s where he can trump Ribery. The man that Sepp Blatter prefers in Lionel Messi. That’s where he can trump anyone.
All said, I really wonder what’s the criteria to win this FIFA Balon D’Or award? People would say it’s based on votes from captains, coaches, journalists etc. But that’s just the process. The criteria is the basis on which those captains, coaches and journalists pick and vote for their chosen players. Is this an award of just individual success or contribution to the team’s success or a combination of both? If it’s a combination, what’s the proportion? If this is just an individual success thing, Ronaldo wins it hands down. If it’s contribution to team’s success, Ribery has a better chance. If it’s a combination, we should know what has more weight to look at favourites.
In the last 22 years, only once has a defender had won it. That was Cannavaro. If he had lost that world cup final, I’m sure he wouldn’t have won the award. In the 66 podium places in the last 22 years, only 3 times, defenders have made it to the podium (Roberto Carlos, Maldini & Cannavaro – that’s from the top draw). I get a feeling something is fundamentally wrong with the way we approach this award. Why should a defender winning the world player of the year award be so unlikely? Why is this turning out to be a glorified golden boot?
So the big question is, do the voters for Balon D’Or even know on what basis they are supposed to vote? Is there some guideline to ensure some consistency in the way voters approach the award candidates? What was a presitgious award until last year has now suddenly being referred to as a glorified pub debate and a popularity contest. Is that because Messi is not in the frontline this time? Or is that because people have really started to realise that this award is not the best players award, instead it’s just an award like FIFPro – a Players’ choice award or a Journalists’ choice award – which need not be awarded to the best player in the world.
With all the depth of analytics and analysis that is in football now, it should be fairly possible to look at who’s the best player instead of looking at who score more goals and who assisted more. Until that happens, this would continues to be a ‘Popular Choice Award’ and not the ‘Best Player Award’. Lionel Messi was the popular choice for four times in succession but let’s see who’s the popular choice in 2013.
Meanwhile, every award or draw event by FIFA or UEFA gets precisely predicted much earlier than the event. World Cup draws, world cup allotments, UEFA Champions League group draws and this FIFA Balon D’Or award event is no different. The rumours say that Messi will win it for the fifth time. We’ve also got the vote percentages.
RUMOURED FINAL PLAYER STANDINGS OF 2013 BALON D’OR:
#1: Messi – 31.1%
#2: Ronaldo – 22.9%
#3: Ribery – 17.3%
#4: Iniesta – 9.2%
#5: Ibrahimovic – 7.4%
I seriously hope that this time, this rumour is completely incorrect. For two reasons. One – in my opinion, Ronaldo deserves to win the Balon D’Or just as he did last year. If this rumour is true, he’d have to lose out once again very unjustly. Two – I don’t want my confidence in the football system broken to pieces. It’s a bit shaky already and I don’t want to further disregard the most important footballing organisations. Really hoping this rumour is totally false. Anyway, forget what’s going to happen in the 2013 FIFA Balon DOr event. Who would you vote for?