France Football has announced their annual Ballon d’Or prize will go through a number of reforms.
The most recent award, which proved Lionel Messi’s record-extending seventh, caused significant uproar as many felt Robert Lewandowski was more deserving of this prestigious accolade.
In response to the falling out, France Football’s editor-in-chief Pascal Ferre confirmed in L’Equipe that there will be four new changes for the award.
1. Ballon d’Or to become an end-of-season award
Going forward, the award period will fall in line with the main European season (August to July) rather than the entire calendar year.
This upcoming award will only take into account the performances of players during the 2021/22 campaign, which ends with the Women’s Euro 2022 tournament this summer. Consequently, performances from the men’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar will only be taken into account for the 2023 ceremony.
2. New jurors and shorter shortlists
On top of the France Football and L’Equipe journalists involved in the voting, former Chelsea and Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba joins the process for the men’s Ballon d’Or, along with the Lev Yashin and Kopa trophies which go to goalkeepers and the best player aged under 21, respectively.
Another juror involved added to the equation is “the voter who has shown himself to be the most insightful in the previous edition.” This year, that will be Vietnamese sports commentator and journalist Truong Anh Ngoc for the men’s award. For the Ballon d’Or Feminin, it’s Czech juror Karolina Hlavackova.
These jurors will help “deliver her twenty applicants,” France Football say, adding: “From these lists will come the final official lists which will be unveiled in September.”
3. Lower ranked Fifa national teams excluded from voting
In perhaps the most controversial change, France Football will now only allow representatives of the top-100 countries in Fifa’s rankings to vote for the men’s award. For the women’s, it is reduced to 50.
4. A new hierarchy
The criteria for deciding the winner has changed. The foremost factor is, naturally, “individual performance and the decisive and impressive character of the contenders.”
Second is “collective performance and the record accumulated during the season” followed by “the class of the player” and their “sense of fair play.”
Lastly, from 2022 onwards, no consideration will be given to the player’s career, with a view to creating a more open playing field.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or favourites ranked
|Karim Benzema favourite||1/33 with Paddy Power|
|Other contenders||Paddy Power|
|Virgil van Dijk||25/1|
|Kevin De Bruyne||33/1|
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Karim Benzema is the current bookmaker’s favourite, jumping high up the rankings after his hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the Champions League to send Real Madrid to the semi-finals.
Subsequently, his Real Madrid teammate Thibaut Courtois talked up his chances of winning this year’s prize: “I think he’s one of the greatest players in the world, the best number nine, maybe with Lewandowski right now.
“I think he showed why he should, maybe, win the Ballon d’Or this year. He’s a great player, a real captain. He led the team to victory with his goals and his class.”
Benzema holds the advantage over Mohamed Salah, while early favourite Robert Lewandowski has seen his odds drop after Bayern Munich’s exit from the Champions League.
When are the 2022 Ballon d’Or awards?
The 2022 Ballon d’Or ceremony will take place in October 2022, roughly two months into the new season.
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How would the new rules impact past Ballon d’Or awards?
This is, of course, not the first time France Football has updated their rationale. The brainchild of sports writer Gabriel Hanot, his vision of honouring those who have performed exceedingly well across the past year became reality in 1956 when Sir Stanley Matthews won the inaugural Ballon d’Or (or golden ball, in English).
Voted on primarily by journalists, until 1995 only European players were eligible for the prize. Liberia’s George Weah was the first non-European recipient, and he would dedicate his prize to his former AS Monaco coach Arsene Wenger.
For a while the award merged with Fifa’s own annual prize before France Football ended that partnership.
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One player who may welcome reforms is Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool forward recently described last year’s outcome, where he finished seventh, as “shocking”.
“The results of the Ballon d’Or were shocking to me,” Salah told Egyptian broadcaster DMC.
“I don’t have much to say about it, but there was nobody who expected me to finish seventh last year, but that is what happened.
“I don’t think there’s a conspiracy theory or anything, but there may be inaccurate choices and there are many countries who don’t know how to vote. I don’t know what they base their choices on, but I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy or anything.
“I have nothing to prove that there is something wrong. I really don’t know, but I was shocked at the result.”
Some have suggested the rule changes were influenced by Robert Lewandowski missing out last year. The Polish marksman bagged 48 goals across 40 matches in the 2020/21 season. This, coupled with Bayern Munich winning trophies due to his goalscoring, made him a strong contender. In another unfortunate development for Lewandowski, the season before which saw Bayern win a second-ever European treble, was virtually disregarded as the 2020 edition was cancelled.
France Football say: “The most attentive will have noticed the disappearance of the ‘player’s career’ criterion. A way of considering the race for the Ballon d’Or as an open competition, and not as a preserve.”
Which some could argue would going forward count against Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who together won 12 of the previous 13 Ballon d’Or awards.
Can you name every Ballon d’Or winner in 8 minutes?