Changes to Ballon d’Or voting criteria could favour Benzema
A few weeks ago, France Football made changes to four key regulations to their annual Ballon d’Or award which could benefit the Real Madrid striker.
Karim Benzema’s recent exhibition displays in the Champions League knockout round along with changes to the voting process for the Ballon d’Or, could benefit the Real Madrid striker’s case for winning this year’s award. Benzema scored a hat trick against PSG in the last round and repeated the feat in the first leg of the quarter final against Chelsea. Scoring consecutive hat tricks in European football’s elite club competition underlines the level of form he’s in. Many believe that he deserved to win last year’s Ballon d’Or - in the end, he finished fourth behind Jorginho, Lewandowski and the eventual winner, Leo Messi.
Perhaps in a move to avoid such contradictory outcomes - like Karim’s last year, Ballon d’Or organisers France Football decided to modify the regulations for their prestigious award in four key areas. From now, performances will be rated over the whole season rather than over one natural year - that means that the star performers in this year’s World Cup, which kicks off in November, will be candidates for next year’s award, not this year’s. The other changes concern the voting process. The preliminary list of candidates will no longer be drawn up exclusively by France Football and L’Équipe but will now include expert opinions from well known ex-players such as Ballon d’Or ambassador Didier Drogba. The voting jury will also be slimmed down from previous editions. Now only selected journalists from the federations occupying the top 100 places in FIFA’s world Men’s ranking will be able to vote - whittled down substantially from the 170 journalists worldwide who voted in the past.
Europe’s top performers, voted by those in the know
The majority of those changes would actually benefit Benzema. For instance, reducing the number of votes to countries which are considered the elite of world football will hopefully increase the quality of voting. There will no longer be votes cast by correspondents from distant countries who might not to quite as clued up about what is happening in Europe’s top leagues or which players are standing out; in the past, those journalists tended to vote for the high profile players they are familiar with, usually Messi or Cristiano - maybe because they didn’t know much about the other candidates.
On top of that, Benzema’s individual displays may well have a key influence on how Real Madrid fare as a team this season. It doesn’t really matter whether Madrid win the Champions League or not if he continues putting in outstanding performances like the ones against PSG and Chelsea - his season will be assessed individually. France Football make it clear that the Qatar World Cup will not be a factor in determining who wins the 2022 Ballon d’Or. That means much will depend on what players do in the Champions League and their respective leagues.
In recent weeks, Benzema has received compliments from some of the game’s eminent figures - legends like Samuel Eto’o and rival coaches like Thomas Tüchel have heaped praise on him. Just at the moment when the stranglehold which Cristiano and Messi have had on individual awards is coming to an end. And with the likes of Mbappé, Haaland, De Bruyne, Salah and Mané making their own cases in the race to be crowned Europe’s player of the year, Karim is looking closer than ever to winning it. The new regulations could help him in his quest to be number one.