Paris: The prestigious Ballon d’Or will not be awarded this year because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the soccer season. Awarded by ‘France Football’ magazine, the Ballon d’Or has been given out every year since Stanley Matthews won the first one in 1956. Lionel Messi has won it a record six times — one more than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
The magazine started giving out a women’s award in 2018, but that has also been put on hold.
“It’s such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one. Let’s say that we started talking about (making the decision) at least two months ago,” ‘France Football’ editor Pascal Ferré told this agency in a telephone interview.
“It isn’t a decision we took lightly but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner. What really worried us it that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded. Because the game’s rules have been modified during the pandemic, the award itself was impacted. The season started with certain rules and ended with others. In January and February, soccer was played in front of full stands. Then from May and June it was with empty stands.
“Then we had the five substitutes rule and not three. Then other changes happened in terms of the competitions, notably the final eight (eight-team knockout format) for the Champions League when it had started with home and away legs,” Ferre added.
The European Championships and the Copa America tournament have been postponed this year. So the Champions League would have massively weighed on the award’s outcome. However, the format has been changed. “The Ballon d’Or would have been decided over just three games: quarterfinal, semifinal, final,” Ferré said.
The Kopa Trophy for the best player under 21 and the Lev Yashin award for best goalkeeper have also been canceled this year, Ferré informed.
Ronaldo, who will be 36 in February, can still win a Serie A-Champions League double with Juventus this season. However, he is not the only player affected by ‘France Football’s’ decision.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski reached 50 club goals for the first time and can win a treble. Kylian Mbappé and Neymar can clinch quadruples for Paris Saint-Germain.
“Look at Lewandowski’s performances this year, his form has been at the level of Messi and Ronaldo,” Ferré said. And PSG players, imagine if they win the Champions League. But we have nothing to do. We will take their frustration as a sign of their attachment to the award,” he added.