Messi v. Ronaldo, part 2

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 Award

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.

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La Liga Half-Seasons

Last year when all the Barcelona fans were despairing about the league being over in January, I went back and looked up some stats regarding half-season performances the year before. I said that Madrid had an edge but that the league was by no means over. I was right – at one point, it was very close, and I think that if Valencia had won that game at the Bernabeu rather than drawn it things might have turned out differently. (It would have put the league back in Barcelona’s control, which I think would have changed the clasico and the Betis game. But I digress.)

So, with Madrid falling far behind this season, I decided to do last season and the 09-10 season as well, to see if there were any more ridiculous stats.

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The Big Two vs. the Big Clubs

So outside Barcelona and Real Madrid, it’s probably fair to say that the four biggest and most successful clubs in Spain are Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, Sevilla, and Valencia.

Athletic, along with Barcelona and Madrid, have spent every season since the league started in 1929 in the first division. Valencia have spent 78, Atlético 76, and Sevilla 69.

Collectively, these four have won the league 24 times of the 28 times neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona won it. They’ve come in runners up 25 of the 38 times neither Madrid nor Barcelona did. They make up 3-6 in the table of total games won through their history in the league, despite Sevilla having spent 9 less seasons in the first division than Espanyol.

Their ranks include the only Spanish teams outside of the big two to ever make it to the UCL final and to win the UEFA Cup/Europa League.

These are hugely, hugely dominant teams. Yes, Madrid and Barcelona tend to overshadow them, but these are four remarkably consistent clubs with real staying power. 

So how have they done against the big two lately?

Well, it’s kind of an interesting story.
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Messi & Ronaldo Stats

With the Ballon d’Or coming up, fans of both players have become increasingly nasty (and maybe even a little crazy) about how terrible the other player is and why their favorite player deserves the prize so much more then the other one.

As often happens with these sorts of debates, there are a lot of “facts” being tossed around that – surprise, surprise – aren’t actually true.

So here’s my attempt to start to set the record straight.

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Most Valuable Teams (for UEFA coefficients)

Hey, I told you I liked stats.

So after calculating the UCL/Europa coefficients and figuring out how many points came from which competition for the top leagues, I got to thinking: which teams have contributed the most to their league’s UEFA coefficient?

So, in typical overachieving fashion, I used my spreadsheets from the UEFA coefficients post to calculate the points they’ve contributed to their coefficient for the last four seasons, and then calculated the percentage those points make up of their coefficient.

Again, I said I was a little obsessed with statistics.

So who came out on top? Click through to see.

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Why Europa Matters

A lot of people, especially in England and the United States, tend to look down on Europa. Being doomed to play on Thursday nights is the epitome of shame and other unpleasant emotions.

But here’s the thing: Europa does matter. I’m not saying that people have to like it, but they need to stop dismissing it. Why?

Two words: UEFA coefficient.

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