The 30 nominees for the 2016 Ballon D’or have been revealed today and I couldn’t be more surprised with some of the players listed.
Personally, I find myself confused trying to understand the criteria for the nominees. The Ballon D’Or is an individual trophy that should be awarded to the best player and a player that helped carry his team. It should not be awarded for players whose teams have had a great year. But then I attempt to change my perspective and try to understand why some players get nominated after playing with a trophyless team and not producing anything for their national team. It’s an undisclosed criteria that doesn’t fall for everyone.
For one, we have Pepe. The portuguese centre back whose teams, like Cristiano Ronaldo, won both the Euro Cup and Champions League final this year. On paper, it makes for a great resume. What they forgot to mention is that Pepe is often Real Madrid’s third-string center back behind Varane, who coincidently, didn’t get nominated. The 33-year-old has managed to be a decent replacement for either Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane but has certainly not been amongst the best three centre backs in the world.
His teammate Rui Patricio had an outstanding Euro Cup. He was a massive hero for his country on their way to their first Euro. But what about the other 11 months of the year? The only candidate that doesn’t play in Europe’s top four leagues and alongside Manuel Neuer, Hugo Lloris and Gianluigi Buffon as the only goalkeepers. But what has Rui Patricio done aside from winning the Euro? A Portuguese Super Cup and 2nd place in the Portuguese league last year. Tremendous performance in the Euros, but not nearly enough to be amongst the top 30 in the world.
Now lets use that same “national team success” criteria on other players. Players like Kevin De Bruyne and Paulo Dybala are undoubtedly talented and exciting players. The 22-year-old Dybala scored 23 goals in 52 games and won the Serie A with Juventus. Despite his great season, he didn’t get called up for Argentina’s Copa America squad and Juventus didn’t let him go play in the summer Olympics. Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne had 18 goals and 15 assists for both Manchester City and Belgium last season and quickly becoming a fan favorite. But in the past Eurocup, De Bruyne and Belgium failed to perform at the expected level. His three assists in the competition don’t make up for the fact that he, along with his teammates, failed to live up to expectations in the Euro.
There were some notable players that were completely forgotten who have played at an elite level throughout 2016. For one, and the most shocking to me, was the absence of Alexis Sanchez. The chilean won his second consecutive Copa America scoring three goals and providing two assists in six games. Sanchez as always, continues to be Chile’s biggest offensive threat and his vision and idea of play helps teammates around him play better. When it comes to his domestic league, Alexis scored 17 goals and 10 assists and helped Arsenal finish in 2nd place. His combination with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott this season has Arsenal firing at all cylinders and the Gunners have lost just two league games since March 2nd.
Second in the forgotten list is Barcelona centre back Gerard Pique. The catalan has been playing at his best level since the arrival of Luis Enrique at Barcelona in 2014 and his presence doesn’t go unnoticed. Virtually a captain without the armband, he commands the defense like his mentor Carles Puyol once did. His dominance in the air is second to none and he even poses a goalscoring ability. He scored in the past clasico and he secured a crucial victory for Barcelona against Monchengladbach in the Champions League. Also, his partnership with Sergio Ramos with Spain gives them one of the best centre back partnerships in the world. The man who, to me, is the best centre back in the World, has been left out.
Lastly, Angel Di Maria, star player for Argentina and PSG, has also been rudely ignored. The skinny argentinian took over Argentina’s offense in the Copa America while Messi still recovered from injury. Against Chile in the opener, Di Maria dominated the continental champions and even managed to put one away. He played a huge role in PSG’s successful season alongside Ibrahimovic and his electric speed and dominance of the ball makes him one of the world’s best.
In the end, the Ballon D’or continues to be a huge propaganda for players who are commercially attractive. Their criteria is questionable and unstable. Each fan can make his or her own mind about who the 30 should be and that’s what makes sports so great. The winner of the Ballon D’or will be announced in December.