Skip to content

Ribéry’s candidacy overshadows other deserving players in Ballon d’Or conversation

Nov 29, 2013, 5:05 PM EST

Germany Soccer Champions League

Messi, Ronaldo, and Ribéry. Every indication says this year’s Ballon d’Or come down to those three Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo are givens in this conversation, and a standout year from Franck Ribéry on top of an astounding season from Bayern Munich has vaulted the France international into the discussion. With most ballots sent in by now, there’s no more room in the conversation.

Which, of course, won’t stop us from second-guessing the whole discussion. Take yesterday, when we had two chances to comment on Ribery’s curious candidacy, albeit in passing. This is from our post on Real Madrid’s support of Cristiano Ronaldo:

While the France international’s improved play without the ball is a huge factor in his candidacy, the Bayern winger scored 20 goals in 50 appearances for club and country in 2013.
Ronaldo? 67 goals in 56 appearances.

So the question voters have (hopefully) asked themselves: Are the unquantifiable aspects Ribéry brings to the game worth enough to transcend that 47-goal gap?

It’s a question that addresses the idea Franck Ribéry might have out-performed Cristiano Ronaldo, but let’s leave that aside, even if it’s great comments fodder. (Seriously, have at it, below.)

What I’m more concerned with is others’ exclusion from the conversation, and in that sense, Ribéry serves as the best reference point. If he was able to break into this discussion, one that’s normally dominated by Messi and Ronaldo, why haven’t others?

Part of that is how the award’s announced. The 23-man shortlist will be reduced to three finalists shortly, a whittling down that influences how we talk about the award. When voters are casting their ballots, they’re asked for first, second, and third choices, another reason Ballon d’Or discussions focus on trios. At this point, the conversation has picked one player to join Messi and Ronaldo, focusing all its attention on him. Toppling that big two is such a monumental task, it takes the wills of many to keep the narrative afloat.

source: Getty Images

Arturo Vidal (left) is up to 20 all-competition goals this season after Wednesday’s hat trick in UEFA Champions League. (Photo: Getty Images.)

But the resulting tunnel vision isn’t fair to the handful of players who have as strong a case as Ribéry. Again, this is a guy who scored 20 goals, was crucial to many others, but has an offense-heavy case based largely on his intangible contributions to his team’s performance. If you recognize this is an individual award (and great teams are already rewarded by trophies), it’s not too difficult to argue players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Robin van Persie were better in 2013 (I’d only agree with one of those, though).

There are other two players, however, who’ve come on strong since the start of the club season – players who’ve received almost no attention for this award. Both are overshadowed by teammates more apt to pick up individual honors, something that kept one of them off the 23-man ballot entirely.

But Arturo Vidal deserves some attention here, especially if you’re using Franck Ribéry as the standard for what it takes to be in this discussion. Ribéry was unquestionably great last season, but if the argument hinges on his is production and influence on a successful team, Vidal’s case shares those merits. Though not as lauded as midfield partner Andrea Pirlo (who finished seventh in last year’s voting), he is the better player at this point in their careers, somebody who’s capable of being the best player in all facet of a game.

source:

If a case is going to rest on intangibles, Philipp Lahm’s may be best. Captain for Bayern Munich and the Germany National Team, the defender-cum-midfielder has proven vital for two highly successful teams.

This season, in all competitions, Vidal already has 10 goals and four assists from his central midfielder’s role. In 52 games this year for club and country, the Chilean international has scored as many goals as Ribéry (20) while seemingly making a greater defensive contribution. That’s not to say Vidal definitely had a better year than Ribéry (these players are close enough where personal preferences should be allowed to win out), but if Ribéry’s in a player of the year discussion, Vidal deserves a place, too.

On the surface, Ribéry appears to be getting credit for Bayern’s team accomplishments, but even if you think that has a place in individual awards, why aren’t other Bayern players getting the same benefit? For example, given how important we’ve seen Philipp Lahm be in defensive midfield this season, would it make sense to look at his play this fall, his contributions to Bayern’s success last season, and his role with a highly successful German national team and note his intangibles case probably transcends Ribéry’s? It’s worth talking about, particularly as Lahm’s play to start this season may have closed the gap Ribéry built up last spring.

And Ribéry did have a truly great year. Through June, he was Bayern’s best player, and the best player in the Bundesliga. But there are a handful of players who, over the course of the year, were just as good. While he may get some bonus points for his contributions to Bayern, it’s not like he was their only good player. And even when you give him that benefit of the doubt, it’s unclear he’s done enough to monopolize this conversation at the expense of Vidal, Lahm, Ibrahimovic, and others. One players greatness shouldn’t come at the expensive of all others’.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: PST Extra – Costa’s suspension, and how will Frank Lampard be received at Stamford Bridge?

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:22 PM EST

    Lampard Getty Images

    PST’s Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville sit down to talk Lampard vs. Chelsea in this week’s PST Extra, with a little Diego Costa suspension talk as well.

  2. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Manchester City, Arsenal, Saints to win

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:02 PM EST

    Pablo Zabaleta Pablo Zabaleta

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor predicts the winners and losers in Week 23.

  3. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester City

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    There are big ones, and there are bigger ones… and this one’s a doozy.

  4. Manchester United signs youngster from Scholes-, Giggs-owned semipro side

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:54 AM EST

    www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/ www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/

    There’s quite a bit of saccharine in this perfect PR story, but it’s a cool tale nonetheless.

  5. San Francisco 49ers brass announced as investors in Sacramento Republic

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:19 AM EST

    sacbee.com sacbee.com

    “We have more 49ers season ticket holders in Sacramento than we do in San Francisco,” the 49ers CEO said

  6. Man City’s Pellegrini hopes stamping ban will change “top player” Costa

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:33 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-MAN CITY Getty Images

    The Manchester City manager made the comments during the pre-Chelsea press conference on Friday.

  7. Louis van Gaal: No Carrick for month, no new signings, Fletcher is at West Ham

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:48 AM EST

    Limited but talented, Michael Carrick's virtues are the subject of a constant debate around Manchester United's midfield. The England international, however, is less of a problem than the players who have been chosen to play around him. (Photo: Getty Images) Getty Images

    Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils host Leicester City at 10am ET on Saturday.

  8. Ban upheld: Diego Costa to miss Saturday’s visit from Manchester City, 2 more

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:46 AM EST

    Costa to miss out vs. Palace? Getty Images

    This further limits Jose Mourinho’s options for Saturday’s match, and will also keep Costa from a trip to Aston Villa and a visit from Everton.

  9. Report: Liverpool hoping to buy Ings, loan striker back to Burnley for season

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:35 AM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Much like their signing and loaning back of Divock Origi at Lille this summer, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers makes an investment in the future.

  10. Report: Dani Osvaldo elects for Juventus return, making early Giovinvo exit possible

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:30 PM EST

    Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan

    Osvaldo-to-Juventus could mean Giovinco-to-Toronto happens six months early.

  11. David Beckham says progress still being made toward MLS stadium in Miami

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    David Beckham David Beckham

    The latest update from Beckham on building a stadium, bringing an MLS team to Miami.

  12. DONE DEAL: Mattia Destro, Juan Agudelo sign with new clubs AC Milan, New England Revolution

    Jan 29, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Mattia Destro, AS Roma Mattia Destro, AS Roma

    What went down on Thursday, the 29th day of this January transfer window? A full recap, inside.

  13. Juan Agudelo signs with New England Revolution, completes return to MLS

    Jan 29, 2015, 5:36 PM EST

    Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht

    Agudelo is back in MLS, where he probably should have been all along.

  14. Russia to cut budget for 2018 World Cup, as economy continues to struggle

    Jan 29, 2015, 3:18 PM EST

    FIFA FIFA

    Putin and Russia have already had to cut costs for the 2018 World Cup.

  15. Alexis Sanchez an injury concern for Arsenal

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:43 PM EST

    Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League

    Arsenal’s main man is touch and go for this weekend’s game against Aston Villa.

  16. Daniel Sturridge could return from injury for Liverpool this weekend against West Ham

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Liverpool FC Training Session

    Liverpool’s leading striker could return to action this Saturday after five months out.

  17. How will Chelsea, Manchester City line up in huge Premier League clash?

    Jan 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EST

    Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    With players out and title dreams on the line, how will Chelsea and City line up on Saturday?

Featured video

Chelsea v Man City: Lampard the hero?