Messi might be the best player ever… but the Ballon d’Or is flawed.

IR #057

I love Messi!! I have no doubt in my mind that he is not only the best forward of my generation but will easily surpass Maradona and Pele even if he fails to win a World Cup in his career. There may be others who could battle for the crown till their playing days are over but I personally will never equate Neymar Jr., Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Ibrahamovic or other with Lionel Messi.

Even if someone else ends up winning more Ballon d’Or titles than Messi, he will always be the greatest forward in my opinion.

One thing however troubles me. Why is the title of the best footballer of the year only given to strikers or forwards??? More so, why is the main criterion for selecting based on the number of goals you are a part of – scoring & assists?

I agree this should be the primary criteria for deciding the best forward of the year but surely this is not the only role that is important in a team.

Is FIFA trying to say that contributions of Manuel Neuer, de Gea, Buffon, Casillas, Navas, and Cech etc between the posts are not important? Or that all the tackling, sliding and selfless card collection by defenders like Thiago Silva, Vincent Kompany, Chiellini, Boateng, Hummels or Pique are just an instrument to make work harder for the strikers and make judging them easier?

The relentless running along the flanks of Marcelo, Alves, Zabaleta, Coentrao, Lahm and Sergio Ramos surely deserves to be counted as imperative to a team’s success. What about the true backbone of a team – the midfield. Will Ozil, Toure, Vidal, Di Maria, Cazorla, Robben, Pogba and Busquets continue to be ignored because their goal tally is far less than the strikers?

I agree that goal scoring is what determines the winner and the euphoria that is created by a Ronaldo free kick or a Messi dribble before the ball whizzes past the goalkeeper to thunder into the nets is the most exciting part of the game. But the game of football is much more than a few moments of enhanced adrenaline induced excitement.

Einstein apparently once said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” What the Ballon d’Or is doing right now is exactly this. The most credible part of the awards is that the final award is chosen by peers on a voting mechanism. This aspect I am completely on the same page.

Now the question is how we can do justice to the other players who deserve to be named the best player in the world in their discipline.

It is quite simple. Just like FIFA has a separate award for the best coach and the best women player, expand the awards to awarding the best player in various categories. You could have

Best Defender: Criteria for Nomination – Successful Tackles, Clean Sheets, Fouls, Goals Scored, Assists

Best Midfielder: Criteria for Nomination – Successful Tackles, Assists, Key Dribbles, Chances Created, Passes, Goals Scored

Best Forward: Criteria for Nomination – Goals Scored, Assists, Fouls Won, Chances Created

Best Goalkeeper: Criteria for Nomination – Clean Sheets, Saves, Goals vs. Saves ratio

Once the nominees are determined, the usual process of the Ballon d’Or can take place and recognize the best player of the year for the role they play. If needed, an overall player can be selected from these winners in each category to decide which player had the biggest contribution in his team’s success in the year.

Maybe the overall award can be the “REAL” Ballon d’Or.

A mention in the World XI team is just not good enough to give credit to players who missed out on a nomination because just because their role within the team was not to hit the back of the net.

Lionel Messi might end up winning that award as well, but we acknowledge 2 facts –

  1. Messi is the best player because of the high quality of his opposition.
  2. Messi is the best player despite the high quality of his opposition.



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