Would the results of the Ballon d’Or have been different if just the media had been voting?
Click through to find out.
Please note that the statistics come from my own spreadsheet, and don’t completely match up with what FIFA says the percentages are. I’m not sure why, but I’ve checked it multiple times, and I don’t think I made a mistake. Regardless, the few discrepancies that exist are quite small (literally a couple votes), and don’t affect the placement.
I’m not going to list out everyone, just the top 8 – after that the numbers are just so small it starts to get pointless.
|1||Leo Messi (41.6%)||Leo Messi (39.7%)||Leo Messi (44.4%)||Leo Messi (40.8%)|
|2||Cristiano Ronaldo (23.7%)||Cristiano Ronaldo (21.7%)||Cristiano Ronaldo (23.1%)||Cristiano Ronaldo (26.3%)|
|3||Iniesta (10.9%)||Iniesta (10%)||Iniesta (8%)||Iniesta (15%)|
|4||Xavi (4.1%)||Xavi (5.8%)||Falcao (4.2%)||Casillas (5.1%)|
|5||Falcao (3.7%)||Falcao (3.5%)||Xavi (3.8%)||Falcao (3.4%)|
|6||Casillas (3.1%)||Pirlo (3.1%)||Pirlo (2.6%)||Xavi (2.7%)|
|7||Pirlo (2.7%)||Drogba (2.8%)||Drogba (2.6%)||Pirlo (2.4%)|
|8||Drogba (2.6%)||Casillas (2.2%)||Casillas (2.4%)||Drogba (2.4%)|
Areas of Interest:
1) Finalists. It’s worth acknowledging that, unlike in some previous years, the finalists would have remained the same (and in the same order) even if the structure of the Ballon d’Or had just included one of these groups.
However, within that, there are some interesting peculiarities.
All three did relatively poorly among captains. That was both Messi and Ronaldo’s poorest showing by a fairly significant margin, and Iniesta didn’t do especially well among them, either (though his poorest showing was among coaches). Conversely, Messi did very well indeed among coaches, where both Ronaldo and Iniesta did best with the media.
2) Captains. There was greater variation among the captains than the other three groups. The average percentage of votes cast for the three finalists was 76.2%. It was 75.5% for coaches, and among the media, it reached as high as 82.1%. Among captains, however, it was only 71.4%. Captains were also the only group whose combined votes did not reach 90% of ballots cast for the top eight.
As I said, they were comparatively unfavorable toward the three finalists, and to most of the players in general. On the other hand, they did provide a substantial boost to Xavi and a more moderate boost to Pirlo and Drogba.
It’s difficult to understand exactly why they voted the way they did and had greater variation than coaches or the media. Club and national loyalties may play some role in it, but given how many captains there are and how few have any meaningful relationship with the finalists, you’d have expected it to mostly even out.
Personally, I suspect that part of it is based in the fact that as professional players, they have a wider range in what skill sets they value. The captains cast a lot more votes for players who are more defensive than anyone else, and most of them weren’t situations like Casillas voting for Ramos, where there is conceivably some loyalty involved. That’s just a suspicion, though.
3) Coaches. They showed less variation than captains, but more than the media, and they also did not provide the most votes to most of the players in the top eight.
The exceptions to that are Messi and Falcao. Messi got a huge boost from the coaches – it wasn’t going to be close, anyway, but they gave him almost 5% more of their votes than the captains did theirs. A player can’t actually win more than about 56% of the vote if most voters use all three of their votes – as almost all of them do – so 5% is pretty significant. Falcao’s boost was smaller – only about .7% – but given the radically lower numbers he got in the first place, that’s still pretty significant.
So what is it about Messi and Falcao that makes them so appealing to coaches? I’m honestly not sure. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them!
4) The media. As said above, the media provided a significantly greater percentage of Ronaldo and Iniesta’s votes than captains or coaches did. That’s particularly interesting in light of some concerns leading up to voting that the media would be overcritical of Ronaldo. They also really, really liked Casillas, as you can see in the above chart.
Why did the media vote this way?
Realistically, I’m sure they all had different motivations. However, such strong trends shouldn’t just be dismissed lightly, and I think they say something important. My interpretation is that the media as a whole values flashy, and a lot of them also value trophies. That wouldn’t be shocking – that tends to be what they cover. It’s also worth pointing out that
Ronaldo and Iniesta are both players for whom it’s possible to pluck out moments of brilliance in almost every game – as, of course, is Messi, who did get more than 40% of the media’s votes. Casillas has been more inconsistent lately than in the past, but he still produces a lot of great saves which we’ve all seen on match/weekend highlights, which may help explain his comparatively high numbers among the media.
And, of course, other than Messi – who is in his own special category – these are all players who in addition to being some of the flashiest players in the game won important team trophies. I suspect that’s a huge part of why the media valued them so highly.
So ends the Ballon d’Or analysis, part 1. Tune in in a few days for a post that looks at continental differences in voting – I’ll tell you right now that they do exist and are really, really interesting.