Ballon d'Or, Messi and Benzema

Once upon a time, the Ballon d'Or was an exciting topic of discussion between fans at this time of the year only. Once the winner was known, it was debated for two or three more days and then it barely came up again. This, however, has not been the case for a while now, and especially in Spain. Not only in Spain, but especially here, where it has become one more front in the Madrid-Barcelona rivalry.

The long tussle between Cristiano and Messi has made this vote something that triggers strong emotions in both sets of fans, and so on Monday we saw madridistas affected because Benzema did not win it and, potentially more so, because Messi did. His Barça colours remain more visible than those of PSG.

Copa América over Nations League

Personally, I used my vote for Benzema, and I'm surprised he only came fourth. He has had a magnificent year, including this opening quarter of this 2021/22 season. As Madrid’s leader and goalscorer he has an endless magic about him. And with impressive goals he provided France’s solution in the Nations League semi-final and final. That title, at least, is his. But the Nations League has not yet captured the collective imagination as a serious tournament (for me, it is) in the way that the Copa América is, which Messi finally won.

But to win the Copa América now is effectively to beat Brazil. The other sides are, these days anyway, less troubling. We’ve already seen Brazil and Argentina qualify for the World Cup in Qatar with five games to go…

Ballon d’Or: credibility is its secret

What I do know, because I am in there, is that it is a clean vote, without pressure or even insinuations, and it is impossible to cheat because France Football publishes everyone’s vote allowing anyone to tally them up. And the criteria are clear, contrary to popular belief: 1) Individual and collective performance during the year; 2) Class and fair play; 3) Player's career.

In a year of little to choose between the very top players, it is obvious that Messi has been helped by the inertia acquired. In any case, I am happy to see a healthy Ballon d'Or, craved for and discussed over the years, and after suffering serious attempts by FIFA to attack it. Its secret is its credibility.