Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, played by some of the world’s greatest athletes. It’s only fitting that some of its greatest players — namely, one Cristiano Ronaldo — participate in the process of honoring its best player.
A closer look at how Ronaldo recently voted for the world’s best player, however, shows his ballot is missing a very significant name that may surprise you.
What are the FIFA Best and Ballon d’Or Awards?
The FIFA Ballon d’Or and FIFA Best awards are handed out to the top players in the world. The Ballon d’Or is probably the single most prestigious individual honor for men’s soccer players worldwide.
The website Towards Data Science took a look at the history of the award and came up with some interesting conclusions about the past winners prior to this year, including:
- Barcelona players have made it as Ballon d’Or finalists 33 times, Real Madrid players have been finalists 27 times, and Bayern Munich have been finalists 18 times.
- Real Madrid and Barcelona players have won it 11 times. Juventus and AC Milan players have won it eight times, and Bayern Munich players have won it five times.
- The teams that have acquired the most “points” (awarded based on how many people vote for a player) include Real Madrid players with 4,190 points, Barcelona with 3,869 points, and Juventus with 2,258 points.
- The biggest winner ever was Michel Platini with 68% of the vote in 1983. The winner with the smallest share of the vote was Lionel Messi, winning with nearly 23% in 2010.
How the award voting works
Business Insider broke down how the voting works for the awards:
“The award, formerly known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or, is voted for equally by four separate groups — national team coaches, national team captains, media representatives, and the public — who each represent 25% of the final poll.”
What that essentially means is that players — or at least, captains — can have a say in who wins the award.
Who Cristiano Ronaldo’s vote for the Ballon d’Or is missing
Every year, FIFA releases the voting for its top award to show who the players voted for. This level of transparency allows fans to see exactly which players selected whom. It’s a wrinkle not often seen with many major sports awards.
One piece of data may be proof that one of the sports’ most competitive rivalries is more competitive than fans thought.
The voting results show that Ronaldo has never once voted for Messi to receive either award. According to Business Insider, here’s how both Ronaldo and Messi chose to vote:
“The document shows that Messi voted for Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Ronaldo, and Dutch youngster Frenkie de Jong as his top three players, while Ronaldo chose to omit the Argentine from his line-up, instead opting to vote for Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, and Kylian Mbappe.”
Even without Ronaldo’s vote, Messi won both awards this year. So what does this prove?
It may not mean much. Ronaldo has a history of voting for his teammates, so perhaps the vote is just his way of showing loyalty. But it may also speak to the ultra-competitiveness of the star player.
Messi and Ronaldo are the two of the most recognizable figures in all of sports, much less just soccer. They’re the global faces of the game. It wouldn’t be surprising if Ronaldo’s lack of support for Messi is simply an expression of some subtle, passive gamesmanship.
Head to head, Ronaldo has won five career Ballon d’Or. Messi has now won the award six times.
Either way, the two are still near the top of their games, and will surely continue to delight and amaze soccer fans everywhere. Fans will need to wait until next year to see if Ronaldo will finally vote for Messi.