Robert Lewandowski Ranking Shows the Ballon D'Or Is Sheer Cabaret

Ian Holyman@@ian_holymanFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2016

Robert Lewandowski might have impressed Ballon d'Or voters more by dancing the Can-can.
Robert Lewandowski might have impressed Ballon d'Or voters more by dancing the Can-can.GUENTER SCHIFFMANN/Getty Images

Emojis, rather than words, speak loudest when it comes to Twitter, and Robert Lewandowski's reaction to finishing 16th in the Ballon d'Or vote was deafeningly clear.

The four "face with tears of joy" as Twitter calls it were not crying with delight, but rather laughing themselves silly with derision at the result. If anyone doubts that, Lewandowski—almost certainly on the advice of someone with a greater sense of public relations and marketing than him—has since deleted the tweet.

Polling just three third-place votes from Poland—understandable—Slovenia and Mongolia—football journalist Byambaa Tsagaanbaatar, take a bow—seems ridiculous given the 2016 the Bayern Munich forward had, and is all the more silly given he finished fourth the previous year when he did not win as much silverware nor score as many goals.

This year, with France Football wresting back sole possession of the prize they created in 1956 from joint-ownership with FIFA, the panel of experts comprised solely 173 journalists from around the world rather than also national team captains and coaches, you would have thought they would know better. Yet they didn't. Except perhaps in Mongolia.

Still, if they are going to hand out prizes for this sort of thing, at least do it properly. And Lewandowski's reaction has more than enough evidence to back it up.

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The theory—though not often the practice—is the panel looks at the whole range of a player's oeuvre in the year, and while Lewandowski undoubtedly did not do enough to challenge Cristiano Ronaldo or perhaps even to come fourth again, he was certainly better than the 16th-best footballer of 2016.

The 30 goals—exactly half of which came in this calendar year—he struck in the league in 2015/16 were the highest tally for a foreigner in Germany's top tier. That means more than players like Giovane Elber, Luca Toni, Ailton, Roy Makaay and Stephane Chapuisat ever scored.

He also became the first Bundesliga player holding any sort of passport to reach the mark since Dieter Muller netted 34 in 1978/79, nine years before Lewandowski was even born.

That in itself was quite an achievement, but he also completed a domestic double with Bayern—something he did not do in 2015. Quite how Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished ahead of him in 11th when the Gabon striker ended runner-up to Lewandowski both individually and collectively is…well…Face with Tears of Joy.

The fact Lewandowski's Bayern team-mate Arturo Vidal polled ahead of him in 14th gives some indication of what the striker lacked that his midfield colleague had: international success. While Vidal made a contribution to the swelling of Bayern's overburdened trophy cabinet, he also claimed the Copa America Centenario in the summer with Chile.

Lewandowski reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 with Poland, scoring in the shoot-out win over Switzerland and then netting another shoot-out penalty having found the net in normal time as his nation pushed eventual winners Portugal to the brink of elimination.

The Bayern man's problem was actually his own stunning form in the Bundesliga season and the record 13 goals he scored in European Championship qualifying. They raised expectations stratospherically, with fans and pundits alike expecting Lewandowski to be one of the leading scorers of the tournament, a stand-out performer.

They forgot that Poland, despite having some quality players, are not Bayern, and that the man who can focus almost solely on scoring goals for his club, safe in the knowledge he will get a string of chances to do so, has a much broader role and less service in the colours of his country.

That Antoine Griezmann, the subject of insistent lobbying from French media, finished third behind Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is further evidence of the bias towards international performance. Atletico Madrid finished third in La Liga and though they knocked Bayern out of the Champions League last season—with the France striker getting what would prove the decisive away goal in the second leg in Munich—they did not win the competition.

Griezmann did star at the Euros though, finishing top scorer, but France still fell short to Ronaldo's Portugal. Griezmann got six goals en route to the final and on the strength of that, was named the world's third-best player. Surely Lewandowski would have netted at least as many, and most likely more, in that France team.

He also suffered from a lack of hype around the Bundesliga. Well, apart from in Mongolia, apparently. Despite Bayern's international renown, the German league is seen as being too easy for them with Borussia Dortmund only occasionally providing resistance. In that respect, the rise of RB Leipzig is a welcome one. A three-horse race—or at least a one-horse race with some interesting outsiders—will increase interest worldwide.

But the marketeers of the German top flight have some work to do to catch up to the Premier League. Both Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy finished ahead of Lewandowski in seventh and eighth, but were their achievements with Leicester City really more than that of the Bayern man? No, but when you see journalists in Antigua, Cameroon, Bahrain, Cambodia and Fiji voted for one of the Premier League champions, you get a sense of the reach of English football.

When a Polish newspaper tweeted 'Bravo Robert, best comment' in response to his emoji rant, Lewandowski tweeted back "Le cabaret" (h/t Bild) Which the Ballon d'Or is to an extent. It's all about the show. Rarely is the "best" player rewarded, but rather the best marketed, even if it is impossible to deny Ronaldo deserves this year's prize on sporting grounds.

But in that case, should Lewandowski really be disappointed at all? He is a part of a team in a sport where individuals do get lauded, but should remember—but never do—that the cliche about "the team being more important" should actually mean what it says.

"It's simply insulting to have this individual award in a team sport," France's World Cup- and European Championship-winning defender Frank Leboeuf told SFR Sport after Ronaldo's fourth coronation.

"It doesn't mean anything 'the best player.' It would be fine if it were given to the 'most exciting player,' the one who gets fans to come to the stadium, Ronaldo, Messi, Zidane in his time, no problem. But the best player means Ronaldo is a better goalkeeper than [Manuel] Neuer, for example." There's not much to say to that except: Face with Tears of Joy x4