by Rob Shepherd.
The nominations for FIFA’s Ballon d O’r have been made and the shock early favourite is Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery.
Ribery may not have the glitz or the glamour of Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo, but the French man’s contribution to a brilliant Bayern team that won the Champions League – as well as the domestic double – has not been underestimated.
It should also be remembered that the award is not entirely down to who the best player on the planet (or at least in European club football) is in terms of ability, but which player has made the biggest contribution to one of the best teams.
Mind you for the past four seasons Messi has won the award on whatever criterion you wish to use or whatever solar system he has been playing.
That said Cristiano Ronaldo, who won in 2008 but has narrowly missed out ever since, now believes there is a conspiracy against him from FIFA explaining why he has not been regarded as Numero Uno on Planet Football.
His case was strengthened when the ever strange and sometimes sinister FIFA president Sepp Blatter not only said he liked Messi better but then did a weird ‘mickey-take’ out of Ronaldo when speaking at the Oxford Union at the end of October.
Gareth Bale, Robin van Persie and Zlatan Ibrahimovic despite being brilliant individuals are all considered to be rank outsiders.
There is not one English player in the long 23 man list.
The first winner of the award in 1956 though was English.
Stanley Matthews won the inaugural prize after the Ballon d’ Or was dreamt up by the French football magazine France Football.
Since then there have only been five more British winners.
Scot Denis Law in 1964, Bobby Charlton in 1966, Belfast’s George Best in 1968, (all when with Manchester United although Charlton’s was as much to do with his display at 1966 World Cup) Kevin Keegan in 1978 and 1979 while with SV Hamburg in Germany and Michael Owen for his Liverpool and England displays in 2001.
The only winner from the Premier League was Cristiano Ronaldo when at Manchester United in 2008.
Originally the award, which commonly used to be known as the European Player of the Year award, was just for Europeans.
That is the reason Diego Maradona never won it when at the height of his club career with Napoli.
After it was thrown “open” Liberian striker George Weah won it 1995 when with AC Milan and in 1997 the old Ronaldo was the first Brazilian to win when at Barcelona.
The award is voted for by a group of elite football writers and will be announced in January.
It appears there is groundswell to salute Bayern Munich in the form of French international Ribery. Indeed there are five other Bayern players nominated; Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
So the “Bayern” vote could be split, but there is a feeling there could be a lobby to single out Ribery, who embodies the German clubs’s ethos underpinning his individual ability with a fierce work ethic.
Then again Messi’s immense importance to Barca was displayed last season when they were without him, not least in the Champions League semi final defeat to Bayern.
Courtesy of Betway here are the odds for the winner of the Ballon D’Or 2013:
Franck Ribery 9/10
Lionel Messi 7/4
Cristiano Ronaldo 8/1
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 28/1
Arjen Robben 40/1
Bastian Schweinsteiger 50/1
Andres Iniesta 50/1
Thomas Muller 50/1
Radamel Falcao 50/1
Robert Lewandowski 50/1
Gareth Bale 50/1
Robin van Persie 66/1
Philipp Lahm 66/1
Mesut Ozil 80/1
Manuel Neuer 80/1
Xavi Hernandez 80/1
Luis Suarez 100/1
Edinson Cavani 100/1
Thiago Silva 100/1
Yaya Toure 125/1
Andrea Pirlo 125/1
Eden Hazard 200/1