The 2021 Ballon D’Or Robbery

Regarded as the most prestigious individual award in soccer, the Ballon d’Or is renowned among sports fans throughout the world. However, the award has lost some of its credibility this year after Lionel Messi won his seventh Ballon d’Or over FC Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who was the frontrunner to win this trophy. 

The France Football magazine—one of the most respected publications within the sport—has presented the Ballon d’Or since 1956 with votes placed by top journalists representing a variety of nations. The winner of the Ballon d’Or is voted based on three categories: individual and team performance in 2021, the player’s class (talent and fair play) and the player’s overall career. Since 2008, the award has been given to all-time greats Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo every year, aside from 2018 when Luka Modrić took home the trophy. 

Through votes from more than 170 media members, this year’s final voting results were 613-580 points, with Messi having a 33-point edge over Lewandowski. But, with all respect due to the soccer legend Messi, the final tally should not have been close as Lewandowski was no doubt the world’s best performer in 2021.

To put this “robbery” into perspective, in 54 matches for FC Bayern and Poland this year, Lewandowski scored 64 goals, while, in 56 matches for FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain F.C. and Argentina this year, Messi scored 41 goals. 

Not only did Lewandowski score 23 more goals for his club and country, but he also won more trophies, including the Bundesliga title, the FIFA Club World Cup, the European Golden Shoe and the CWC Golden Ball. Meanwhile, Messi’s only major achievement in 2021 was winning the Copa America with Argentina, which his national teammates had a large influence on. Not to mention, Messi has started off slow since joining PSG in August, scoring four goals in 11 appearances.

Looking at the criteria set in voting for the winner of the Ballon d’Or, Lewandowski definitely outclasses Messi in every category except for the overall judgment of a player’s career. So, how did Lewandowski manage to get robbed from the Ballon d’Or? 

It may have been because of the legacy Messi has established for the past decade or Messi’s first international title with Argentina in their Copa America victory, but there will never be an explanation. We do know that the criteria in determining the winner of the award has become inconsistent.

Last year, Lewandowski also had an outstanding season, in which he was favored to win the 2020 Ballon d’Or. However, the Ballon d’Or was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Combined with this year’s controversial outcome, there is a strong argument that Lewandowski should have two Ballon d’Or wins, but instead, he has yet to win.