Ballon d'Or extension provides unwelcome distraction

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Strangely, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has decided to extend the voting period for the Ballon d'Or and even allowed those who had already expressed their opinions to change it if they wished to do so. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this must be the first time the deadline is extended so close to the final recount in the award's history.

It is rumoured that the organisation that runs football around the world had already arranged for Franck Ribery to pose for the traditional photo shoot to be published at L’Equipe as soon as the winner is announced in public. Blatter's latest controversial decision will certainly postpone the Frenchman's individual award and, who knows, even make take it away from the Bayern Munich star it altogether.

The FIFA director argued that an extension of the voting deadline was needed so that more opinions were considered: "If we decided to extend the deadline, it's simply because we didn't have -- to our mind -- enough votes. There's nothing to hide. There's no manipulation, no opportunity to interfere with the procedure nor the result."

- Lowe: A distracting debate

Many fans around the world are, perhaps rightfully, arguing that Blatter's measure was in fact taken to favour Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Ribery and Lionel Messi. In their eyes, giving the Portuguese forward such a prestigious award would be the best way for Blatter to apologise about his shameful, disrespectful comments a couple of weeks beforehand.

Personally, I do agree that Ronaldo has been outstanding in the later stages of 2013 and, in fairness, ahead of the continuously injured Messi and Ribery since the new season started in September.

Having said that, the Real Madrid star has not won a single official trophy with his club in the last 12 months and, compared to Messi's two (La Liga and Spanish Supercopa) or Ribery’s jaw-dropping four with Bayern Munich (Champions League, Bundesliga, UEFA Supercup and DFB-Pokal), it is clear that Cristiano's efforts just haven't been as decisive in terms of achieving collective glory.

As I have explained many times before, winning the Ballon d’Or ultimately doesn’t mean much from a club perspective. Sure, I understand that the media and advertisers love the hype such an award brings to the sport, but ultimately football is all about team effort and taking your teammates forward with you.

On that note, I must say that I found the fact that the Santiago Bernabeu supporters decided to wear 45,000 Cristiano Ronaldo face-masks to enhance their player’s chances of winning the Ballon d’Or rather strange. While I respect their decision to express themselves in whatever way they feel necessary, I seriously can't see the Bayern or Barcelona faithful doing the same for any players regardless how fantastic their performances on the pitch may have been.

Here's hoping for the winner to be announced as soon as possible so that, once and for all, supporters can stop talking about individual awards and focus what really matters: winning football matches as a team.

The quote -- "The leagues are played between August and May. So, when it's finished, the prize should be attributed in June. With the current format, people get it wrong and don't reward a player for a season." -- Hristo Stoichkov, Ballon d'Or winner back in 1994.

139,000 Cules follow Francesc Tomas at @TomasESPN and Barcablog Facebook for news and opinion notes on Barcelona.

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