This year's men's Ballon d'Or edition was probably one of the closest, and most controversial ceremonies in all of sports in the recent years. Part of the reason why that is, is because for the first time in the past ten years someone who is not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo won the prestigious award.
However, the fact that Luka Modric was awarded the Ballon d'Or over the likes of Messi and Ronaldo does not bother me nor its the sole reason that made this award ceremony controversial. To be completely fair, Luka Modric had an astounding year and there was no question he had a legitimate claim to the award. Modric made invaluable contributions to both his club and country, winning the UEFA Champions League and leading a highly underrated Croatian national side to an almost unimaginable second place finish in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Despite playing in a position (central midfield) where being statistically notable is extremely difficult, Modric still managed to do visible impacts on the field.
He changed the course of many games with his elegance, touch, work rate and ability to find open spaces. Nevertheless, what made this award ceremony truly outrageous and ludicrous was not the fact that he won, but rather that there was one player who won almost everything there is to win both individually and collectively, and yet somehow he was not even included in the top 3, nor the top 4 finishers for that matter. Yeap, that's right, that player is Lionel Messi.
Let me be clear, for the longest time Lionel Andres Messi has been the best and most dominant force on a football pitch and this past year was no different. Every-time he walked out the locker rooms and stepped on the pitch, his presence was instantly felt by fans, players and coaches all around the world. Every touch he took seemed magical and mind-boggling. He scored, assisted, passed, and created chances at a higher rate than any other player on the planet but somehow was still not included in the top 3 players in the world last year. Sadly, I believe I know why that is, but before I share what the reason behind him not finishing in the top 3, let's lay something down. According to the Rules of Allocation, FIFA bestows the award "according to on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch." Given this definition, let's analyze what Messi did last year so you can figure out for yourself whether he deserved a spot in the top 3 or not.
As of December 8th, 2018, Messi has recorded 47 goals and 23 assists in 51 games. In 2018 he was the player who created the most chances in the world, the fastest player to score 100 Champions League goals and also became the Champions League all-time top scorer in the group stages. Messi also won the most "Man of the Match" awards (MOTM), the domestic double (La Liga and Copa Del Rey), the European Golden Boot, La Liga's MVP award, and both La Liga's top scorer and top assist provider awards. In short, besides not winning the Champions League and the World Cup, he almost won it all. Now, after reading this you may think "wow, how did he not make the top 3?" and to answer this question I have found a plausible answer made up by three points, which from my perspective, combined and ended up plotting against him.
One, the France Football committee decided to unjustly put more weight on 3-7 games from the World Cup than to all of the other 50-ish games he played throughout the year (which should definitely describe better how a player performs throughout the WHOLE year). Two, the committee is not judging the award based on pure individual proficiency. And three, the election committee is spoilt by Messi's brilliance. What I mean by "spoilt" is that Messi has been playing exceptionally well for so long to the point that other players, fans, and the France Football committee have unconsciously set higher standards for him to meet, rather than the ones they set for all the other players. For example, if you looked at the Ballon d'Or's final results, you'll notice that Antoine Griezmann was ranked above Messi by a significant margin (voting wise) and was included in the top 3. However, if you watched both editions of La Liga and the Champions League this past year (2017/2018), you probably noticed that Griezmann did nothing that could possibly compare to Messi's deeds. Atletico failed to qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League, and finished second in La Liga behind Barcelona. Individually, Griezmann was not even close to playing on Messi's level and even though he did have a really good season, winning the World Cup with France, and the Europa League with "Los Colchoneros", these should have not been good enough reasons to justify his higher rank during the ceremony. Nonetheless, due to the fact that he won the World Cup and happened to be a pretty good player, the committee decided to rank him above Messi. This perfectly displays how the election committee set the expectations bar far lower for players who typically do not perform as well and it also shows how the Ballon d'Or is NO longer an individual award. Griezmann clearly underperformed in comparison to Messi but because he performed relatively well and won one trophy that was more important than the ones Messi won, he was ranked higher. All this leads me to believe that it was not Griezmann's individual talent or performances that got him the 3rd place in the voting, but rather it was the trophies both of his teams got. Under this logic, any player who performs well above his usual level (but not nearly as well as Messi) and wins a major piece of silverware, should have been ranked higher than Messi. In fact, following up with these standards, Messi might never win a Ballon d'Or again because I do not think he can perform any better than he is right now (because he is already something out of this world), which means he won't be able to raise the bar the French Football committee want him to raise so bad; and winning major trophies is not something only he can control. There are 10 other players in the field and a manager that contribute to winning a major trophy and Messi has not had a lot of luck with that lately, especially when looking at the massively underperforming Argentinian national team. Therefore, this lack of objectivity and judgement, courtesy of the French Football committee, took away this year's Men's Ballon d'Or's credibility. Sadly, Messi not ending in the top 5 may steal the spotlight Modric rightfully deserves, but at the same time, it will make the world open their eyes and see how undervalued Messi was this year after having given us, the fans, so much. I just hope Modric, does not go down in history as the Shevchenko or Michael Owen of our generation due to these controversial results, because like I said before, he deserved to win the prestigious trophy even though he was not on the top of my list.