FIFA Ballon D'Or Voting Analysis: One for the Stat Geeks

Lucas RadicellaCorrespondent IIJanuary 8, 2013

FIFA Ballon D'Or Voting Analysis: One for the Stat Geeks

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    The FIFA Ballon d'Or has been won by Lionel Messi. Again. Honestly, there is no big news there. It is what pretty much everyone expected.

    However, while everyone was waiting to see what Cristiano Ronaldo's facial expression would be when Messi's name was announced, or the brand of the suit Messi was wearing, I was regularly refreshing the FIFA Ballon d'Or homepage for an entirely different reason.

    At the moment Messi was receiving the Ballon d'Or I was receiving my own personal chunk of gold in the form of a PDF document, or rather, three PDF documents, detailing all the voting statistics for the award, captain by captain, coach by coach, and media delegate by media delegate.

    My first piece was a guide to who had voted for who that I published yesterday. 

    Now it is time to take a more critical and qualitative look and count up all the numbers to see what conclusions we can take (or make up) from these votes...

    Here are the complete PDFs for anyone who is interested:

    Votes for Player of the Year.

    Votes for Coach of the Year.


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    Out of 162 national team captains that voted, only 15 chose the exact winning combination; ranking Lionel Messi 1st, Cristiano Ronaldo 2nd, and Andrés Iniesta 3rd.

    Surprisingly, none of the captains of the 40 top teams in the world (according to FIFA), voted for this winning combination.

    Those who did were the captains of: Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chad, Faroe Islands, Moldova, Mongolia, Northern Ireland, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Sao Tome e Principe, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.

    Likewise, only 19 coaches (also out of 162) voted for this combination, these were the coaches of:

    Bangladesh, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Czech Republic, Eritrea, Guinea, Jordan, Korea Republic, Moldova, Myanmar, Poland, Slovakia, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

The Mavericks

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    There’s always someone in there trying to be original and stand out, and in this case four captains and two coaches did not think any of Messi, Ronaldo or Iniesta were worthy of appearing in their top three. Well done then lads, you’ve got yourselves noticed.

    Here are their names and votes:

    Hugo Lloris (France, Captain):

    1. Iker Casillas

    2. Radamel Falcao

    3. Didier Drogba

    Danilevicius Tomas (Lithuania, Captain):

    1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    2. Wayne Rooney

    3. Gerard Piqué

    Marko Vucinic (Montenegro, Captain):

    1. Gianluigi Buffon

    2. Andrea Pirlo

    3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Stefano Andrew (Samoa, Captain):

    1. Xabi Alonso

    2. Andrea Pirlo

    3. Manuel Neuer

    Joachim Löw (Germany, Coach):

    1. Mesut Özil

    2. Manuel Neuer

    3. Xavi

    Stephen Keshi (Nigeria, Coach):

    1. Touré Yaya

    2. Didier Drogba

    3. Robin van Persie

Messi and Ronaldo Votes

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    Two of the three finalists had the possibility to vote, and both were shrouded in a bit of a controversy.

    Lionel Messi chose to vote for Barca teammates Iniesta and Xavi, and fellow countryman Sergio Agüero. When asked on camera why he hadn’t voted for Ronaldo he was clearly taken aback by the question. His answer didn’t give a very clear explanation (via Marca):

    “How can I not consider Ronaldo being in the three best [players in the world], that would be stupid.

    “I just felt that my teammates, Iniesta, Xavi and Kun [Agüero] were the people that I had to vote for.”

    Ronaldo didn’t vote for Messi either. In fact, despite being the 1st captain for Portugal, Ronaldo didn’t vote at all. He explained that he wasn’t with Portugal due to injury when the voting process was carried out, which is why Bruno Alves voted instead.

    Critics have hinted that it might have been a strategy to get extra points as the rules prohibit a player from voting for himself. Alves unsurprisingly put Ronaldo at the number one spot on his list.

The Messi 'Haters'

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    While many have been debating whether or not Messi is the greatest footballer of all time, a few football professionals seem to think that he wasn’t even one of the three best footballers in the world in 2012.

    In total, 44 voters did not mention Messi in their top three at all; 18 international captains, 13 international coaches, and 13 media representatives.

    Here are five of them:

    Bruno Alves (Portugal, Captain):

    1. Cristiano Ronaldo

    2. Radamel Falcao

    3. Robin van Persie

    Iker Casillas (Spain, Captain):

    1. Sergio Ramos

    2. Cristiano Ronaldo

    3. Xavi

    Belozoglu Emre (Turkey, Captain):

    1. Radamel Falcao

    2. Mesut Özil

    3. Cristiano Ronaldo

    Jose Camacho (China, Coach):

    1. Andrés Iniesta

    2. Xavi

    3. Iker Casillas

    Vicente del Bosque (Spain, Coach):

    1. Iker Casillas

    2. Xavi

    3. Andrés Iniesta

The Ronaldo 'Haters'

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    Despite not voting for him, Messi said it would be “stupid” not to consider Ronaldo one of the three best players in the world. However, a total of 141 voters did exactly that.

    These include 58 international captains, which means that more than a third (35 percent) of captains omitted Ronaldo from their top three; 47 international coaches, and 36 media representatives.

    Here are five of them:

    Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon, Captain):

    1. Lionel Messi

    2. Touré Yaya

    3. Xavi

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Captain):

    1. Xavi

    2. Andrea Pirlo

    3. Lionel Messi

    Alejandro Sabella (Argentina, Coach):

    1. Lionel Messi

    2. Sergio Agüero

    3. Radamel Falcao

    Cesare Prandelli (Italy, Coach):

    1. Andrea Pirlo

    2. Gianluigi Buffon

    3. Lionel Messi

    Frank Rijkaard (Saudi Arabia, Coach):

    1. Lionel Messi

    2. Xavi

    3. Andrés Iniesta


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    When you’ve been selected among the 23 best football players in the world, it’s hard to say you are a loser in any way. However, the cruel art of comparison means that there are few players shortlisted who stand out for how poorly they did in the voting.

    The easiest one to predict was perhaps Mario Balotelli’s unpopularity among coaches. No coaches put Balotelli in their top three. More surprisingly though, none of them included Gerard Piqué or Karim Benzema either.

    On the other hand, one very surprising omission is that there weren’t any votes for the same Balotelli from the media representatives.

    Knowing that Balotelli, whether he is blowing up his own house, throwing around chunks of cash, or punishing bullies, regularly feeds stories to journalists from across the world, his omission seems very inconsiderate indeed.

    No media representatives voted for Xabi Alonso, Neymar, Sergio Ramos, Manuel Neuer, or Gerard Piqué either.

    Finally, it is heart warming to see that each and every one of the 23 shortlisted players figured in the top three of at least one international captain. For Neuer though, it was just the one from Samoa, and for Balotelli, the ones of Austria, Laos, and Palestine.

Coaching Shenanigans

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    Despite Pep Guardiola not coaching for more than half of the year in 2012, he made it to the podium of the Ballon d’Or. Only just though.

    In the end, the difference between Guardiola and fourth placed Roberto Di Matteo was a mere 38 points, or 0.7 percent of the vote. A tough one to take for the reigning UCL champion. 

    Other points from the coaching award:

    Despite all the recent, and not so recent, tension between Iker Casillas and José Mourinho, the Spain captain chose the Portuguese over his national team coach Vicente del Bosque. He also included Di Matteo as his number three.

    Despite the more than dodgy accusations leveled at him and his teammates for years, Messi chose to name José Mourinho in his top three coaches. Admittedly it was only behind Pep Guardiola in number one, and Vicente Del Bosque in number three, but it shows quite a bit of emotional detachment to do so anyways.

    Vicente Del Bosque on the other hand omitted Mourinho from his list as he ranked Pep Guardiola 1st, Di Matteo 2nd, and Cesare Prandelli 3rd.

    Finally, England coach Roy Hodgson did not include Del Bosque or Mourinho in his top three. He was the only coach of the top 10 teams in the world not to include the reigning World Cup and European champion. He chose Pep Guardiola, Di Matteo and Jürgen Klopp, in that order.