What's wrong with FIFA's Ballon D'Or Awards selections?

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Oct 29 2014 08:28 PM | Updated as of Oct 30 2014 04:28 AM

FIFA released the contenders for the Ballon D’Or Award and named to the list are some year-in, year-out contenders, some surprises, and some glaring omissions.

The one thing that FIFA fails again to do is to properly define the award. The basic criterion is to award the best male player to have had the best in the previous year.

But how do you define the best player? Is it through the most tangible result, that is through scoring goals? If that is the case, that eliminates goalkeepers, defenders, and probably 90% of all midfielders.

The previous season encompasses club and country tour of duties. I would like to recommend that FIFA do the following:

1. Separate the Ball D’Or Award – one for goal scorers, one for playmakers, one for defenders, one for goalkeepers, and one for managers.

2. Place all pertinent statistics. For scorers and playmakers, its goals and assists. For defenders, it could also be goals, tackles, and perhaps, stops, a statistic that should be introduced in defining a defender’s worth. For goalkeepers, it’s saves, clean sheets, and goals conceded. For managers, it’s wins and the turnaround from the previous season.

FIFA has introduced a whole slew of statistics from ball possession to pass completion rate to tackles and right down to distance traveled! Until these stats are made better use in determining a player’s worth, then it’s all bunk. It’s probably the one sport that doesn’t make use of too much statistics; that is why clubs generally don’t want to have to do anything with sabermetrics.

I tried finding pertinent stats to all the 23 players named on the list and obviously it is still lacking.

Gareth Bale: Wales – 3 goals; Real Madrid – 22 goals
Karim Benzema: France – 7 goals, Real Madrid – 24 goals
Diego Costa: Spain – 1 goal, Atletico Madrid – 36 goals
Thibault Courtois: Belgium – 10 clean sheets, Atletico Madrid – 24 conceded goals
Angel Di Maria: Argentina – 2 goals, Real Madrid – 11 goals
Mario Gotze: Germany – 6 goals, Bayern Munich – 15 goals
Eden Hazard: Belgium – 1 goal, Chelsea – 17 goals
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Sweden – 2 goals, Paris Saint-Germain – 41 goals
Andres Iniesta: Spain – 1 goal, Barcelona – 3 goals
Toni Kroos: Germany – 3 goals, Bayern Munich – 4 goals
Philipp Lahm: Germany – zero goals, Bayern Munich – 1 goal
Javier Mascherano: Argentina – 1 goal, Barcelona – zero goals
Lionel Messi: Argentina – 7 goals, Barcelona – 41 goals
Thomas Muller: Germany – 8 goals, Bayern Munich – 26 goals
Manuel Neuer: Germany – 86.2 save completion rate, 4 conceded goals; Bayern Munich – 25 clean sheets
Neymar: Brazil – 13 goals, Barcelona – 15 goals
Paul Pogba: France – 5 goals, Juventus – 9 goals
Sergio Ramos: Spain – zero goals, Real Madrid – 7 goals
Arjen Robben: Netherlands – 4 goals, Bayern Munich – 21 goals
James Rodriguez: Colombia – 8 goals; Monaco – 10 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal – 11 goals, Real Madrid – 53 goals
Bastian Schweinsteiger: Germany – zero goals, Bayern Munich – 8 goals
Yaya Toure: Ivory Coast -1 goal; Manchester City – 24 goals

Conspicuously missing from that list is Luis Suarez, who scored five goals for Uruguay and 31 for Liverpool. Sergio Aguero, who scored three goals for country and 28 for his club. And where is Robin Van Persie, who scored 14 goals for the Netherlands and 18 for Manchester United?

It seems that those who came up with the list have selective memory.

Why is James Rodriguez on the list? Because he has a terrific World Cup? He wasn’t great with Monaco. If that is the case then probably that justifies Paul Pogba’s inclusion. But there’s the rub because Andres Iniesta is on the list. Didn’t Spain bomb out in the first round of play?

The list isn’t that justifiable and panders to expected while paying lip service to certain football associations so that they have a representative, never mind if they have a chance in hell of winning the award.

What chance does that fantastic Thibault Courtois have of winning it? I think he is certainly much better than Manuel Neuer who has literally the German national team playing ahead of him in Bayern Munich.

Taking a look at that list, if goals are the sexy stat that voters look out for, then Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Leo Messi, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Yaya Toure should be on that short list.

Again, in my opinion, the selection process is un-democratic and unfair, even to the players on the list. Criteria should be set and defined and presented in a very clear and concise manner – and it should be divided. Perhaps you they can simply call them the Ballon D’Or Awards with the Pele Award going to the top goal scorer. And perhaps the Johan Cruyff Award going to the Best Midfielder (you can also name it the Alfredo Di Stefano Award). The Beckenbauer Award goes to the Best Defender. The Lev Yashin or the Dino Zoff Award goes to the Best Goalkeeper.

The Best Manager Award is again… tricky. There are 10 men named to this list. Carlo Ancelotti (Italy/Real Madrid CF), Antonio Conte (Italy/Juventus FC/Italy national team), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Bayern Munich), Juergen Klinsmann (Germany/ USA national team), Joachim Loew (Germany/Germany national team), Jose Mourinho (Portugal/Chelsea FC), Manuel Pellegrini (Chile/Manchester City FC), Alejandro Sabella (Argentina/Argentina national team), Diego Simeone (Argentina/Atletico Madrid), Louis van Gaal (Netherlands/Netherlands national team/Manchester United FC).

You have separate managers for club and for country. Again FIFA fails in this regard.

Of the 10 on that list, four were head coaches for a country – Klinsmann for the United States of America, Joachim Loew for Germany, Alejandro Sabella for Argentina, and Van Gaal for the Netherlands. The rest managed only one club.

Now why is Van Gall listed under Manchester United when he wasn’t coaching them the previous season? These awards are given with regards to what was done in the last year. If it’s MUFC, then he’s definitely out of this list.

Again, FIFA fails in providing consistency.

However, the die is cast.

And as usual, it will come down to Lionel Messi (who really didn’t deserve to win the World Cup MVP Award) or Cristiano Ronaldo.

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