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Ballon d’Or, FIFA The Best awards: what’s the difference between them?

In the wake of the 2016 split between FIFA and soccer publication France Football, we now have two major individual awards ceremonies every year.

Ballon d’Or, FIFA The Best awards: what’s the difference between them?
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Soon after his election as president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino severed the organisation’s ties with soccer magazine France Football, ending the world governing body’s involvement with the Ballon d’Or award. This led to the creation of FIFA’s bespoke individual prize, ‘The Best’.

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Although both awards have the same premise in awarding outstanding individual talent, there are some aspects to differentiate them.

Ballon d’Or

Created by France Football in 1956, the Ballon d’Or is generally regarded as soccer’s most prestigious award. Blackpool and England’s Stanley Matthews was its first winner, while Lionel Messi is the current holder. The Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina star scooped the gong for a record seventh time in 2021, ahead of Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho.

FIFA became involved in the award from 2010 to 2015, when it was rebranded as the ‘FIFA Ballon d’Or’.

The winner is selected following the votes of a select number of journalists from around the world and, up until 2022, was based on player performance during the calendar year. As of this year, however, jurors have been instructed to take into account the previous season.

The Ballon d’Or awards ceremony has tended to take place in November, December, or January of the following year, but in 2022 has been brought forward to October. The event has been held in Paris since 2016.

The awards have branched out to also include prizes for the best young player, women’s player, goalkeeper...

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FIFA ‘The Best’

Following the breakaway from France Football, FIFA staged the first ‘The Best’ ceremony in January 2017 in Zurich, with Cristiano Ronaldo picking up the first award. The voting for this award is carried out by an international jury which comprises national team managers and captains, and a pool of journalists. A percentage of the vote is also made by fans, who cast their ballot through the FIFA website.

The awards, which have so far been staged in either September, October, December or January, are also based on performances in the most recent season, as opposed to the calendar year.

The 2021 ‘The Best’ went to Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, who picked up the prize for the second straight year, in a ceremony held virtually due to covid-19. ‘The Best’ awards also recognise the campaign’s best women’s player, men’s goalkeeper, men’s and women’s coaches, and more.


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