With the ceremony to crown the best player in soccer in January, many are wondering if the award will go to the right athlete.
Before the 2013-14 season started, the favorite to win the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or was Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribéry due to his spectacular influence and playmaking ability on his side’s historic treble. The Frenchman received the UEFA Best Player in Europe in August but then Cristiano Ronaldo’s form was arguably the best of his career starting the season with 17 goals in 15 La Liga appearances, scoring a record 9 goals during the group stages of the Champions League, and scoring four goals during two legs against Sweden to lead Portugal to the 2014 World Cup. When FIFA decided to extend the voting period for the Ballon d’Or by two weeks, many speculated that it was to help the Real Madrid winger win the award. If this is true then it is very unfortunate because four months into a new season should not be enough for a footballer to win a trophy based on the whole calendar year. Statistically, Lionel Messi was still the best player but due to his time away from injury, it hindered his campaign for his fifth Ballon d’Or.
According to many journalists, FIFA does not have a set criteria for the award and that makes it more difficult decide when the competition is as steep as this season. In a letter to members of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA, stated that the only standard for deciding who should win is “sporting performance as well as general behavior on and off the pitch from 1 January 2013 until now.”
This is too broad and does not pinpoint how to evaluate greatness and judge the importance of the footballer to his side. In a 2011 article on goal.com about how Messi won the 2010 Ballon d’Or, writer KS Leong said there was a loose guideline to help voters. The list included; performances in major competitions (Champions League, World Cup, etc.), individual and team honors, individual talent, skill and fair play, overall career, and personality and charisma.
It does not make sense how two years ago had more description on how to rate the footballers and then this year it is relegated to one sentence.
Because of the amount of goals Ronaldo and Messi score at an incredible pace, it seems many have forgotten about the creativity and influence a playmaker can have. Under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage Ribéry has six goals and seven assists in 13 Bundesliga appearances compared to last season in 24 appearances when he had 10 goals and 14 assists in 27 appearances. Guardiola leading Munich has the 30-year old experiencing an elevation in his form and it should not be ignored.
For FIFA to restore credible to the most prestigious individual award to the sport, an official list of criteria has to be made so every voter is using the same concept to evaluate footballers. Also, the FIFA Ballon d’Or should be awarded for a season instead of a calendar year to have a more focused perspective on a footballer’s form was and how it influenced team success. Ronaldo may have the goals but his team fell short in the Copa Del Ray final and in the Champions League semi-finals while Ribéry has been consistent throughout the year and deserves to be crowned.