Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has beaten Lionel Messi for the 2016 Ballon d’Or. However, the general feeling points to the Ballon d’Or getting more and more controversial. The original Ballon d’Or, came into existence in 1956 and its ambit was restricted to just the European Footballers until 1995. The publishers of the bi-monthly France Football magazine were the originators of Ballon d’Or after sports writer Gabriel Hanot conceived it in 1956. From 1995, the scope of Ballon d’Or was expanded to include all players in European Clubs and in a further amendment in 2007; all players from around the world were included. Brazil’s Kaka won the award in 2007 and since then, nobody, other than Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, has claimed the Ballon d’Or. In nine years, Messi has won the award 5 times and Ronaldo 4 times. But football’s most coveted global honor is not devoid of dirty politics between France Football and FIFA. From 1991, FIFA introduced their own Ballon d’Or and two such awards existed side by side until they were merged into one from 2010. The arrangement lasted until 2015 but for the year 2016, FIFA and France Football have broken their merger agreement. New FIFA boss Gianni Infantino announced that the world’s highest governing body for football would revert to the old system. This simply means that we are back to the days of two awards.
What is the difference between France Football and FIFA’s Ballon d’Or? In a nutshell, the difference lies in the method of voting. While decision of France Football’s Ballon d’Or is based purely on a voting bank consisting of journalists, FIFA’s award encompasses four separate voting groups with each group commanding 25% of overall votes. Unlike the European award, FIFA’s Ballon d’Or allows general public to select the players from a shortlist via an online ballot. Besides, 200 media representatives are also selected to take part in voting. With France Football and FIFA going separate ways, there will be two identical awards in 2016 just as they existed from 1991 to 2009. While France Football have already announced their award in a ceremony at Paris on Monday December 12, FIFA will unravel their choice on January 9 in Zurich. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is the winner of the first Ballon d’Or but he is in line for the FIFA Ballon d’Or as well.
Many people see the process of shortlisting footballers for Ballon d’Or as political hobnobbing rather than based on true sporting achievements. In 2014, French International Frank Ribery thought German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Dutchman Arjen Robben were the truly deserving candidates. Neuer was Germany’s hero during the 2014 World Cup while Robben had a great season with Bayern besides taking Netherlands to World Cup semifinals before Argentinians defeated the Dutch. Talking to media, Ribery said that he saw the then FIFA Chief Sam Blatter hugging Ronaldo, who had brought his entire family during the ceremony. Ribery got convinced that the Portuguese had won the 2014 Ballon d’Or and he knew that in advance or why else would he bring his whole family. Like Ribery, many others in the media think likewise. Four days ago, Danny Gallagher of Dailymail wrote that for 2016 Ballon d’Or too, Ronaldo had prior information of the impending award. As per Gallagher, the leaked image of France Football magazine suggested that decision had already been made. Whether or not the image is real, it shows a properly dressed Ronaldo looking quite overjoyed while clutching the prestigious award.
However, that doesn’t take away the merits of his achievements from the Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar. His inspirational performance during Euro 2016 was instrumental in Portugal winning the tournament. Besides his heroics in 2015 UEFA Champions League helped Real Madrid win last season’s honors. Argentina and FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi was second while French International Antoine Griezmann, who plays for Atletico Madrid finished third. During the ceremony in Paris, Ronaldo himself could not be present, since he was in Japan with Real Madrid for FIFA Club World Cup.