Balance the Ballon d’Or: Why soccer’s top award needs to be restructured

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For the first time since the Ballon d’Or’s initiation, this year the award won’t be given.

Vish Gondesi, Online Editor-in-Chief

While prominent soccer tournaments (Champions and Europa League) have started up again, the deliberation for the sport’s top award has ended. This year France Football announced there will be no winner for the Ballon d’Or, an annual award perceived as the most prestigious in the sport of soccer, for the first time since its initiation in 1956. With this unexpected break France Football should also look into restructuring the award for the future. 

To make these necessary changes the board has to delve into the recent history of the award. In the last decade, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have won it a combined nine times. Other positional players, who excelled in their roles, weren’t considered because they didn’t have the individual stats.

Ironically, this year Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandoski was supposed to join Luka Modric as the only players in the 2010s who’ve won except Messi and Ronaldo. Through the Champions League round of 16 he tallied 53 goals and 8 assists, meaning he played a part in 41 percent of the team’s goals. Competition doesn’t come close.

Pascal Fierré, editor-in-chief of France Football, issued a statement on why they couldn’t select him, or anyone, as a winner. 

“We believe that such a singular year cannot -and should not- be treated as an ordinary one,”  Fierré wrote. “From a sports perspective, two months (January and February), out of the eleven generally required to form an opinion and decide who should lift the trophies, represent far too little to gauge and judge ; without forgetting that the other games were played – or will be played – in unordinary conditions (behind closed doors, with five replacements, Champions League’s Final 8 played in a single game).”

Accordingly, to “protect the credibility and legitimacy” of the Ballon d’Or, the decision was made.

However, to do this it requires more than a cancellation. The award needs to be changed.

Here’s why:

It places too much emphasis on goal-scoring. Attacking playmakers, midfield, and defensive superstars have to be considered. Players like Franck Ribéry, Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil Van Dyke have all put together worthy seasons. I’m not saying all these players should’ve won, but their impact should be measured equally.

In the end, soccer is a team sport. Just because one aspect of the game is more flashy doesn’t justify it being considered more highly.”

Without talents in the midfield like Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, Messi might’ve never scored as much as he did in those seasons. Without a solid defense with players like Carlos Puyol, Gerald Piqué and Dani Alves, Barcelona might’ve never played in the high-level matches that let Messi shine.

In the end, soccer is a team sport. Just because one aspect of the game is more flashy doesn’t justify it being considered more highly.

As a solution, other positions need to be evaluated more carefully for the Ballon d’Or. They should look at impact not only through goals, but in all facets of the game. It even makes sense to make the FIFA XI (individual award given to the best 11 players in their respective positions) just as important by having all awards in one ceremony. It obviously needs some logistical work, but it recognizes all deserving players. 

There’s no question that the Ballon d’Or should still be highly exclusive. Nevertheless, these solutions allow for all parts of the game to be showcased, and keep the integrity of the award. These aren’t participation trophies to console other players. These are to appreciate the game’s finest for nearing the level of a Ballon d’Or winner.