Science Proves Lionel Messi Should Have Won Ballon D'Or, Not Cristiano Ronaldo

Ross EdgleyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo With Ballon d’Or
Cristiano Ronaldo With Ballon d’OrAndre Penner/Associated Press

Research from the universities of Oxford, St Andrews and Bristol could prove the Ballon d’Or was wrongly awarded this year and actually belongs to Lionel Messi. The sports science backed conspiracy comes from a study conducted in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport. It found players who favour their left foot have inverted brain hemisphere functions, which makes them more creative and more unpredictable on the pitch. This means that Messi has, and always will have, a genetic advantage over Ronaldo. 

So, what's the purpose of this article? Well, to finally settle the ‘Messi vs. Ronaldo’ debate. We’re going to compare various academic reports with real footballing examples and agree whose cupboard the Ballon d’Or silverware should be placed in. 

Lionel Messi Should Win Ballon d’Or  

In the ‘left-corner’ we have two footballers, another study and a famous painter fighting for Messi’s right to be called the best player in the world. The first to support the theory of the genetic superiority of the leftie comes in the form of Ryan Giggs. A man whose left foot has terrorized team’s defenses for over two decades and a man whose left foot single-handedly put Arsenal out of the 1999 FA Cup.

An equally devastating left peg that has to be mentioned belongs to Roberto Carlos. A foot cemented in history. Since it was during the 1997, Tournoi de France when he defied the laws of physics and bent the ball around a stunned French wall. To play devil’s advocate, would a right-footed player’s brain ever contemplate attempting such a creative free kick?

Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport says probably not. They set out to objectively test the quality of contact between the foot and ball in both left and right-footed players. Now it must be noted this was based on 20 Australian Football League players, but what they found was “left-foot kickers had a higher movement score than right-foot kickers and the data showed left-foot kickers to have higher movement ability.” Maybe that explains Carlos’ free kick? 

Finally, Leonardo de Vinci’s left hand painted the Mona Lisa. An often-quoted fact in psychology for those arguing lefties are more creative. But before we re-house the Ballon d’Or, let’s hear from those in support of Ronaldo. 

Cristiano Ronaldo Should Win Ballon d’Or 

Michael Probst/Associated Press

In the ‘right-corner’ we have two footballers, a professor of psychology and another famous painter fighting for Ronaldo’s right to be called the best player in the world. The first right-foot that makes a very valid argument belongs to David Beckham. Carrying the hopes of a nation, he famously secured England’s place in the 2002 World Cup. All with a beautifully curled a free kick into a stunned Greek goalkeeper’s net. That in itself is an argument against the aforementioned Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.


But to further strengthen the case of the conventional right-footers, how about an extract from "Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography." Here he uniquely details the accuracy of another famous right footer:

“Scholes was probably the best English Midfielder since Bobby Charlton. He was such a brilliant long passer that he could choose a hair on the head of any teammate answering the call of nature at our training ground. Gary Neville once thought he had found refuge in a bush, but Scholesy found him from 40 yards.” 

Supporting the right-footed cause, renowned "psychologist Chris McManus in his book (Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures)" says:

"Although there are recurrent claims of increased creativity in left-handers, there is very little to support the idea in the scientific literature."

This backs up the idea that whilst stories of left-handed creative geniuses like Leonardo de Vinci and Messi are nice, there’s equally as many about right-handed heroes like Claude Monet and Ronaldo. 

The Ballon d’Or Goes To?

So who wins? The sports scientist in me wants to believe Messi has a biological advantage. That he is genetically more capable of being creative and unpredictable. This could then have wider implications for football scouts who could search for the next Messi or Maradona based on a sporting prodigy's DNA. And this may still be true. But whilst creativity and unpredictability are good traits, they aren’t the only criteria for the coveted Ballon d’Or. Therefore the football fan in me rules in favour of the silverware remaining where it is, with Cristiano Ronaldo.