The Ballon d’Or ceremony approaching, and the arguments about who deserves it are getting intense. However, there also seem to be some major misconceptions about what exactly goes into deciding the award, so I thought I’d clear things up for anyone who is confused.
The Ballon d’Or is awarded for a calendar year, not a season. Only performances from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 are taken into account. If it happened last year – even if it was last December – it doesn’t count. It mattered in last year’s Ballon d’Or.
Each national team captain, national team coach, and media representative votes for three people. The first person gets 5 points, the second gets 3 points, and the third gets 1 point. National team captains cannot vote for themselves, but they can vote for players on either their national team or their club team. National team coaches and media representatives have no restrictions on who they can vote for. Those nine votes from each country comprise all the votes for the award, and full records of who voted how are published after the fact.
FIFA officials do not sit in a room and conspire about who to give the award to. There are flaws in how the award is handed out – exposure counts for a lot – but that isn’t one of them. The award goes to whoever got the most votes from the captains, coaches, and media representatives from each country.
Trophies: Copa del Rey 11-12, top scorer Champions League 11-12, top scorer Spanish league 11-12
Club: Barcelona won the Copa del Rey last year, finished second in the Spanish League, and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. This season, they currently enjoy an 11-point lead over Real Madrid in the league and are still alive in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Messi has scored five goals and has two assists thus far in the current Champions League season, as well as 21 goals and five assists in the Spanish league.
Country: Argentina have not played in any major competitions this year, but they have played five World Cup qualifiers. Messi has scored five goals in five games and assisted another. Argentina currently sit at the top of the CONMEBOL table, where the top four teams automatically qualify.
Other notable achievements: Last season, he tied for first in assists in the Champions League and came in second in assists in the Spanish league. He also set a new record for goals scored in a league season, and is a goal away from equalling Gerd Müller’s record from the 70s for goals scored in a calendar year.
What doesn’t count
2011’s Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, or FIFA Club World Cup. Neither does the fact that he’s had more games to break the record for goals in a calendar year. The fact that he has very talented teammates is also unlikely to make a difference in how people vote.
This year, in the Spanish league, Messi has scored 54 goals, including 10 penalties, and has assisted his teammates 11 times. His goals and assists have been decisive in 45 of the points Barcelona have earned this year.
17 of those goals, including 3 penalties, were against the best teams in the league (defined as the top 6 last season, as well as Real Madrid and Levante this season, since they both look on track to finish in the top 6). His goals were decisive in 12 of the points Barcelona earned against these teams.
This year, Messi has scored 13 goals in the Champions League, including 2 penalties, and he has assisted his teammates 3 times. 8 of those goals, including the 2 penalties, as well as one of the assists, came against a team in the top four leagues.
Trophies: La Liga 11-12, Spanish Super Cup 2012
Club: Real Madrid won the Spanish League last year and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. They were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the quarter-finals by Barcelona. This year, they are still alive in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, but sit 11 points behind their rivals Barcelona in the league table. Ronaldo has scored 6 goals and has one assist thus far in the current Champions League season, as well as 13 goals and two assists in the Spanish league.
Country: Portugal played in the Euros and made it to the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by eventual winners Spain. In the competition, Ronaldo was tied with five other players on three goals, but missed out on the golden boot because he lacked the assists that Fernando Torres (Spain) and Mario Gomez (Germany) had. Portugal has also played in four World Cup qualifiers. Ronaldo has one goal and one assist from those four games, and Portugal currently sit third in their UEFA table, where only the top two can qualify.
Other notable achievements: He was named in Euro 2012’s team of the tournament. He also helped Madrid to their record-breaking 100 points in last year’s league season. He came in second in the Spanish league and third in the Champions League in goals scored, and tied for fourth in assists in the Spanish league.
What doesn’t count
Euro qualifiers, which took place in a different year. His position as a winger vs. a false nine in terms of his goal-scoring prowess is also unlikely to be taken into account. Given the number of people who have voted for him in the past, including to a first place finish, his personality is also unlikely to have an effect.
This year, in the Spanish league, Ronaldo has scored 39 goals, including 9 penalties, and has assisted his teammates 7 times. His goals and assists have been decisive in 25 of the points Real Madrid have earned this year.
11 of those goals, including 2 penalties, were against the best teams in the league (defined as the top 6 last season, as well as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Levante this season, since they all look on track to finish in the top 6). His goals were decisive in 13 of the points Real Madrid earned against these teams.
This year, Ronaldo has scored 13 goals in the Champions League, including 1 penalty, and he has assisted his teammates 2 times. 4 of those goals, including the penalty, came against a team in the top four leagues.
Real Madrid v. Barcelona
Copa del Rey 11-12
Leg One: January 18, Bernabeu. Result: Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
Leg Two: January 25, Camp Nou. Result: Madrid 2-2 Barcelona
Spanish League 11-12
Game Two: April 21, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Spanish Super Cup 12
Leg One: August 23, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
Leg Two: August 29, Bernabeu. Result: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
Spanish League 12-13
Game One: October 7, Camp Nou. Result: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
That’s two wins for Real Madrid, two wins for Barcelona, and two draws. All wins were by one goal margins. Barcelona knocked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey, which they went on to win. Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup. Real Madrid’s league win effectively ended Barcelona’s chance at the title last season, and their failure to win this season may have had the same effect on them.
Both Messi and Ronaldo played all six of these games. Messi scored 4 goals and had 2 assists. Ronaldo scored 7 goals and had no assists.