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Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Paul Scholes.

Spot the odd one out.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi shows off one of his four Ballon d’Or trophies

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi shows off one of his four Ballon d’Or trophies

If you did, well done, if it hasn’t quite clicked, it’s Paul Scholes. The first three have won the ‘biggest individual prize in world football’, Scholes never has done.

The Ballon d’Or is meant to be an award for the best player in the world over the 12 month period beforehand, though one of the greatest players ever to grace the game has never won it.

Though it could be argued that Scholes doesn’t want (or need) that kind of recognition for his career, it is no doubt criminal that a player as gifted as he has never won it, nor even come into consideration for it.

So this poses a question to me; what does it take to win the award? How do you impress the critics and professionals enough to get yourself on the list?

To get any kind of answer, you have to start by looking back through previous winners. Since its inception in 1956, there has been 44 separate winners from 18 different countries globally.

And looking through previous winners, you see a pattern emerging.

Strikers, attacking midfielders and wingers are generally the chosen as the ones to win the coveted prize, with very few defensive players lifting it, and none in the same mould as Paul Scholes.

Then to look further into it, you have to look more recently to see who has been winning (though dominating may be a more apt term to use) the award.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are generally considered as the only players capable of winning it, with whoever else makes up the top three just there for the ride.

This denies players like Frank Lampard (who has just broken Chelsea’s all time goal scoring record from central midfield), Bastian Schweinsteiger (who is a rock for Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (widely thought of as the best goalkeeper in the world) the chance to be recognised for their talent and achievements in the game.

What it appears it takes to win the award is a cult following. Lionel Messi has millions of people gawping in awe when he plays, you could say the reason a lot of people support Barcelona is down to him.

Whereas their biggest rivals Real Madrid have always had a huge cult following, and so Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence is not essential; if he were to leave tomorrow, business would continue as normal.

This could well attribute to Messi winning more than Ronaldo, in spite of what the Portuguese winger has achieved in his career so far being arguably more than Messi (winning numerous EPL titles at Manchester United and single-handedly dismantling teams week in, week out).

What the experts will say is needed to win the award is to outshine the rest, to perform exceptionally for 12 months, regardless of position. Though again on the face of things, it seems you have to be an attacker, and full of flair and tricks and showboating.

Ruud van Nistelrooy is another example of someone who should, yet hasn’t won it. His goal scoring record was phenomenal, but he never won it. He was never a player that would beat 8 men and score from 45 yards, but the perfect example of a goal poacher, who could score with his left, right, head or backside, as long as it was in the 6 yard box, and he has nothing to show for it by way of this award.

The actual relevance of the award is questionable, to use Scholes as the example once more, does a trophy on the mantelpiece make you a great player? Or does the opinion of your fellow professionals mean that bit more? When asked how it feels to be the best midfielder in the World, Zinedine Zidane replied with ‘I don’t know, ask Paul Scholes’.

Former team mate, and current front runner for the award Cristiano Ronaldo constantly heaps praise upon the midfielder. But because of the perceived importance of lifting the trophy, an importance that is being felt less and less by the masses because of the inevitability surrounding, it is not nearly enough just to have people talk about you.

You have to have the hard evidence to ‘prove’ how good you are. Players of ‘pure football’ are no longer appreciated, even the likes of Andres Iniesta or Xavi have never won it despite the fact they were as key, if not more so, to the success of Barcelona as Lionel Messi and they were definitely indispensable to Spain’s domination of both Europe and the World.

In conclusion it seems that to win this gong, you have to have a massive following in the media and around the world, you have to be able to beat men repeatedly and do a fancy flick or trick at the end, and you have to score countless number of goals in a league that has just two consistently competitive teams.

Originally published at voomfootball.wordpress.com

Post written by Matthew Henderson (@matt_hendo12) for Voom Football
Blog: Voom Football, Twitter: @Voomfootball

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