Monday night was a great upset for Kopites around with the world, with many football pundits and experts also joining in the dismay. Lionel Messi was handed his sixth Ballon d’Or despite all the facts, figures and analyses pointing towards a Liverpool player. We knew that Virgil van Dijk had lost the Ballon d’Or from the moment that Riyad Mahrez was named in 10th place.
Many have condemned France Football’s prestigious award as becoming a popularity contest in recent years. People have slated the prize for overlooking the greatest talents in the game because they don’t come from the right country or don’t play for the right team.
There has been a consensus on social media that it is nigh on impossible to win the award if you don’t play for Real Madrid or Barcelona. 13 of the last 15 awards (including the last 11) have gone to players from either Madrid or Barca.
Aside from that the voting appears to show that players from MENA countries can have their points totals inflated by votes from biased coaches, journalists and captains. There is simply no other explanation for Riyad Mahrez coming 10th in the rankings. When the Algerian’s position was revealed, we knew that this was once again going to be a popularity contest that Messi would win.
The fact that Mahrez came 10th is made even more nonsensical by the fact that Raheem Sterling came 12th. According to Transfermarkt, Sterling has played 3929 Premier League minutes since the start of the 2018/19 season, Mahrez just 1956. That means that the Englishman more than twice the amount of league minutes than his teammate, though this does factor in some of 2018.
Undoubtedly, people will argue that the AFCON has been taken into account for Mahrez. Frankly, the standard in the tournament is not high enough to make up for the mammoth gap between himself and Sterling. If this award was based on performance alone, Raheem Sterling would have finished higher than Riyad Mahrez, Virgil van Dijk would have won the Ballon d’Or.