Ballon d'Or: The 5 Most Controversial Editions In Its History

Although the Ballon d'Or is one of the most prestigious awards in the world of football, controversies and injustices have been present several times in its history.

Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández

Despite the great prestige that this award has, behind it there is a long list of controversies that range from European exclusivity, through the voting method, to even the very little relevance for women's football. Photo: FC Barcelona

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Balón de Oro: las 5 ediciones más polémicas de su historia

Since 1956, the French magazine France Football has annually awarded the Ballon d'Or for the best footballer of the season, which is considered the highest individual honor in this sport. Although the awards were aimed solely at Europeans, as of 1995 that changed with the inclusion of players of any nationality, as long as they play for a club from the old continent.

But despite the great prestige that this award has, behind it there is a long list of controversies that range from the European exclusivity mentioned above, through the voting method, to even the very little relevance for women's football. Likewise, it is worth mentioning that the organization itself does not have requirements or norms at the time of the election, but they leave it to the discretion and personal opinion of the jury.

As expected for some, this 2021 was not alien to these controversies and injustices. On the one hand, Cristiano Ronaldo was left out of the top-3 (he finished 6th) for the first time since 2010. While the Polish Robert Lewandowski, who for the second year in a row returned to a very high level with Bayern Munich and his team, was second after Lionel Messi's seventh win. For this reason, we have decided to put together a list of the 5 most controversial editions in the history of the Ballon d'Or.

Andriy Shevchenko (2004)

The Ukrainian forward was a fundamental part of AC Milan's last successful spell and he proved it with his contribution upfront. However, in 2004 they left modest records (14 goals) compared to other seasons and only lifted the Italian league title, while in the Champions League they suffered a painful elimination in the quarterfinals against Deportivo La Coruña. In this edition of the Ballon d'Or, midfielder Deco was the favorite for the award after winning several trophies with Porto and even the runner-up in the European Championship with Portugal.

Fabio Cannavaro (2006)

It took exactly 50 years for the Ballon d'Or to be received for the first time by a defender. In that year the soccer world cup was played and Italy showed a great defensive level, largely thanks to Cannavaro and Buffon, for which they won their fourth World Cup. As if that were not enough, the Italian also won Serie A with Juventus, but that title was revoked from the team by a sports scandal and made it doubtful if the player really had enough merits to win it. Thierry Henry was the favorite at the time despite losing the Champions League finals with Arsenal and the World Cup with France.

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Lionel Messi (2010)

The great footballing level of FC Barcelona was transported to the Spanish National Team, which won its first World Cup in South Africa 2010 against the Netherlands. Everything seemed to indicate that Xavi or Iniesta (author of the final goal) would keep the award, but to everyone's surprise, the Argentine star won his second Ballon d'Or. It is worth mentioning that Messi himself confessed that he was not expecting it and acknowledged what was achieved by his teammates. Also, one of the players who had a phenomenal season and did not enter the top-3 was the Dutch Wesley Sneijder, champion of a triplet with Inter Milan.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2013)

The controversy was present again for this edition, where the Portuguese forward had a good individual year although with only one title with Real Madrid (Spanish Super Cup). Cristiano added a total of 69 goals in the season, but his most important moment was demonstrated with his team, which he made qualify for the 2014 World Cup after a phenomenal playoff against Sweden. This performance favored him at the last minute, as the main candidate to win the trophy was French Franck Ribéry, who won 5 of 6 titles that season with Bayern Munich. For the public that was an injustice.

Luka Modrić (2018)

The battle between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or ended up being cut off by the Croatian midfielder after 10 consecutive editions. It was arguably the best season for Modrić in his career, as he had won his third Champions League in a row and was also the driving force behind his team that took the World Cup runner-up against France. However, some claimed that Messi's season had been much better (he won three titles), not to mention that the award should have gone to a Frenchman such as Griezmann (three titles), Mbappé (five titles), and even Raphael Varane, also a Madrid player.