Ballon d’Or - who decides who wins, what are the criteria and why is this system unfair?


August 4, 2020

France Football has called off the Balon-d’Or Award for the 2020 season. This title is the biggest award in the world of football that a player can win individually. This means that bluntly speaking, the winner can call himself the best player in the world for one season! So there is no title that would be worth more to the individual player.

Lionel Messi has won the title 6- times, Cristiano Ronaldo 5- times. No wonder these two are considered the best players in world football for the past 15 years. As mentioned in our previous article, we think Bayern star Robert Lewandowski deserved the award more than any other star for his achievements during this season. So it’s time to take a closer look at the criteria and the decision parameters of the Balon-d’Or Awards.

First of all, we have to know who actually makes the decisions when awarding the award. In fact, there are 30- top players chosen by France Football themselves and 176 journalists from many countries who act as jurors. These jurors are usually beholden to the following criteria:

– Individual and collective achievements during the season

– Individual class of the player

– Player’s career development

How these categories are weighted, is up to the individual juror. The problem is, therefore, that past accomplishments could be weighted higher than the achievements of the assessed latest season. This means that players with a very large international reputation will probably do better than players who lack this standing. Robert Lewandowski had performed excellently internationally long before this season. However, if we are honest, he has not really appeared on the radar of journalists from Southern Europe and South America so far. A closer look at the results of past elections shows that journalists often vote according to national criteria. For example, Lionel Messi is generally ranked number 1 among Argentine journalists, even if he was clearly not the number 1 player during a season from a sporting point of view. This shows that the criteria unfortunately do not imply an objective performance assessment. If that were the case, Lewandowski would certainly have landed in 1st place for 2020, if the elections were carried out.

However, as is well known, France Football has cancelled the 2020 election because it is said that a fair performance evaluation is not possible because of the Corona pandemic. Why not? In contrast to the French league, all of Europe’s top leagues: La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A have now finished their seasons. Could it be that France Football’s decision is based on the fact that no French stars from the domestic league are eligible for victory? Kylian Mbappe, star of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, who has not yet won the title, is not considered a possible candidate for victory in 2020. Had Mbappe played at Real Madrid or Liverpool FC and would be the big favourite for the Balon-d’Or 2020, would France Football have made the same decision to cancel the award? We strongly doubt that! Objectivity is not always a strength of the decision-makers, as the Balon-d’Or 2019 election has already shown. Virgil van Dijk, dominant defensive player of FC Liverpool’s Champions League winning team, was favoured by many experts in 2019.

In the end, however, Lionel Messi prevailed again. Van Dijk is unfortunately only a defender, so he plays less spectacularly than players who play on the offensive. Similar circumstances led to German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer not being awarded the prize in 2014. Not only was he the best goalkeeper in the world in 2014, he also revolutionized football tactics back then, as he practically acted as the 12th outfield player. Many top goalkeepers have adopted this tactic after 2014. Robert Lewandowski is a striker, but comes from a nation that has traditionally not had the highest standing in FIFA and UEFA. National factors should not play a role in awarding such an award, since it is an individual award that only highlights and evaluates the individual player and his performances and accomplishments. So can we ask whether politics are the driving force behind the Balon-d’Or awards? Behind the scenes, the lobbying of some powerful figures from the world of football, who are mainly connected to the major Spanish clubs such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, ​​seems to play a crucial role. This is the only way to explain the extreme dominance of Southern European players in recent years. The influence of powerful sports magazines such as Marca and AS in lobbying on the journalistic jurors is also considerable. Due to the large number of Spanish-speaking countries, the influence of such magazines is greater than that of the German Kicker magazine.
The lobby work from Poland is unlikely to have any influence on the election dominated by Southern Europeans. So here lies the core of the problem. Robert Lewandowski simply doesn’t have a big enough lobby to support him compared to other international football stars. Therefore, there is no particular interest in holding the election this year. His most influential supporter is probably Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who wants to intervene directly with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, so that he can convince France Football to alter their decision. We believe that more football fans should be made aware of the unfairness of this decision. If enough people get in touch with France Football, maybe the magazine’s bosses will reconsider their opinion, if Rummenigge’s influence also comes to fruition, then Robert Lewandowski might at least have the chance to be elected.

            This is the minimum of fairness for the achievements of a remarkable football star who has continuously improved most aspects of his game such as penalty kicks, free kicks and his overall efficiency, which is also unusual at this international level, especially at the age of over 30. This makes him one of the best paragons for what can be achieved through hard work, especially for the youth of football world. This saying rarely fits better than in Robert Lewandowski’s case: “Per aspera ad astra”.