While football is undoubtedly a team sport, don’t be fooled into thinking that its players aren’t driven by individual glories too.
As far as individualised recognition goes, it doesn’t get much better than the Ballon d’Or, an award handed out to the player considered to have been the best over the past year according to an esteemed panel of judges.
Often, the winner of the Ballon d’Or picks itself – one player performing to levels so much higher than their contemporaries that they simply have to be handed the statuette.
The 2023 edition, however, was one of those that appeared to be an open competition: Lionel Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and recipient of the World Cup Golden Ball in 2022, going up against the goalscoring exploits of Erling Haaland amongst many other nominees.
According to leaks in the press, Messi is set to win an eighth Ballon d’Or trophy – making him the most decorated player in the history of the award.
But who will be voting on the outcome of the Ballon d’Or in 2023?
How Does the Ballon d’Or Voting Work?
The originators of the Ballon d’Or was the sports magazine France Football way back in the 1950s, and that publication still plays a vital role in the working of the award to this day.
Their journalists get together and come up with a shortlist of contenders that they believe are the best players from the previous season: 30 individuals from men’s football and 20 from the women’s game.
A panel of voters is then assembled. A respected football writer is selected from each of FIFA’s top 100 nations (50 for the Ballon d’or Feminin), and they select their top five from the shortlist provided.
Points are awarded for each vote:
- First place vote – 6 points
- Second place – 4 points
- Third place – 3 points
- Fourth place – 2 points
- Fifth place – 1 point
The total points for each player are tallied up, and the individual with the most points to their name is declared the winner of the Ballon d’Or.
How Has the Ballon d’Or Voting Changed?
While the current voting system has been in place since 2016, there have been plenty of changes along the way.
From 1956, when the Ballon d’Or was first conceived by the French writers Jacques Ferran and Gabriel Hanot, until 1995 the award was only open to European players – the voting was only opened to journalists from the continent as well.
In 1995, the criteria was relaxed somewhat so that players from any country plying their trade for a European club could win the Ballon d’Or – the change designed, if you believe the rumours, to ensure that the outstanding AC Milan and Liberia striker George Weah was eligible for the award.
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Between 1995 and 2006, sports writers from 52 European countries were approached to vote on the Ballon d’Or, before the trophy went truly global in 2007 – now, players from any club and country could be nominated, while the voting panel was extended to reflect the new worldwide reach with journalists from 96 different nations enlisted.
The Ballon d’Or had something of an existential crisis between 2010 and 2015 when it temporarily merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy. Renamed the FIFA Ballon d’Or, the voting criteria remained the same with the addition of national team captains and head coaches.
By 2016, the deal between France Football and FIFA had come to an end and so the Ballon d’Or returned to normal – with that stack of journalists voting on their favourite players.
For most of the Ballon d’Or’s existence, voters have been asked to consider their best players of the preceding calendar year. But in 2022, that rule was changed so that only the prior season counted – ending the crossover from one campaign to the next.
Who Votes for the Ballon d’Or (Home Nations)
The honour of voting for their favourite Ballon d’Or candidates has been bestowed on journalists from the four home nations and the Republic of Ireland.
Since 2018, Henry Winter has been England’s representative. A football writer with more than 30 years’ worth of experience, Winter currently writes for The Times. In 2022, he voted the eventual winner Karim Benzema into first place, Thibaut Courtois in second and a trio of Premier League stars past and present from third to fifth: Kevin De Bruyne, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.
Henry Winter (England) Ballon d’Or Votes – 2019 to 2022
|First||Karim Benzema||Jorginho||Virgil Van Dijk|
|Second||Thibaut Courtois||Lionel Messi||Lionel Messi|
|Third||Kevin De Bruyne||Robert Lewandowski||Cristiano Ronaldo|
|Fourth||Sadio Mane||Gianluigi Donnarumma||Raheem Sterling|
|Fifth||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Alisson Becker|
Scotland’s representative is John Greechan, who has written for the Daily Mail and Scottish Daily Mail, while in Wales it’s Paul Abbandonato, who works for Media Wales and its subsidiaries. He also voted for Benzema at the 2022 edition.
Over the Irish Sea, the representatives of Northern Ireland – Darren Fullerton (Northern Ireland) – and the Republic, the freelancer Paul Kelly, both agreed that Benzema was the worthy winner of the 2022 prize, with Mane and De Bruyne rounding out the pair’s respective 1-2-3.