2014 Ballon D’Or Nominations: Who is in with a shout?

Here is a bit of football trivia:

Q: Which player became the first Spanish winner of the Ballon D’Or in 1960?

A: His name was Luis Suárez. Luis Suárez Miramontes, to be precise. He was a Spanish central midfielder who played for Barcelona in the 1950’s but went on to achieve his greatest successes in the 1960’s when he plied his trade in the Serie A with Internazionale and Sampdoria. Here is a video of his best ten goals from his time with Inter:     


Luis Suárez is still widely adored by Barça and remembered as one of the grand masters of Spanish football. Present day, another Barcelona player named Luis Suárez, however, is the focus of our attention as he will not – this year anyway – become the second Luis Suárez to win football’s coveted Ballon D’Or.

‘Short’ list for Ballon D’Or

FIFA, football’s international governing body, this morning released the 23-man shortlist for the 2014 Ballon D’Or, which is surprisingly – to some – short of Luis Suárez. The Luis Suárez who famously played a World Cup match on a very empty stomach. The shortlist is shown in the tweet below:

Sky Sports News ran a poll on the same day as the shortlist was announced asking its viewers to vote whether they think Luis Suarez should have been included in the Ballon D’Or shortlist. 61% of those that voted seemed to think so.

Terry McDermott, an ex-Liverpool player displayed his bemusement at the shortlist:

Does Suàrez have a case for being on the Ballon D’Or short list?

Last season in 33 English Premier League appearances he scored 31 goals, made 12 assists and earned the Golden Boot – top scorer – award. That is a pretty good record domestically, however, Liverpool did not feature in Europe’s top competition, the Champions League, which probably counted against Mr. Suarez. Notwithstanding his biting and other notorious antics.

For the purposes of making an argument in favour of Suárez being on the shortlist, what I have done is put some of Suárez’s vital statistics of last season against those of some other strikers actually on the list. have whittled it down to whom I would consider a striker in the same kind of way as Luis Suarez. Put another way, I have not included Christiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi – I see them as total outliers – and did not include Thomas Müller either (although he is tipped to be in 3rd place for the Ballon D’Or) because I think the three I have chosen are a more like-for-like comparison to Luis Suarez.

The table I have created only shows stats from domestic league games. It does not include European tournaments nor does it include the World Cup. However, what the table clearly shows is that Luis Suarez scored more domestic goals than any of his competitors I have chosen, and it shows he assisted more goals in absolute terms (well, alright, just by one over Zlatan, but still). The most interesting statistic for me, however, is the goals-to-time played ratio, where the stats show that Luis Suárez scored more frequently per minutes played than Zlatan, Benzema and Diego Costa last season. That is, he was a more deadly striker than the others.

Like I have said before, Luis Suárez was not in the Champions League, the others were. While Zlatan was not at the World Cup, Suárez and the other two were. Benzema scored more World Cup goals than Suárez, Diego Costa had a pretty awful World Cup. But, and this is a big but – none of the other three in this list bit Giorgio Chiellini. That biting incident indenibly marred Suarez’s already controversial season, and thus probably why he did not make the cut for the Ballon D’Or this time around.

Odds on Who then?

Even if Suárez were on the list, I doubt he would stand any chance of winning the prize. I went over to oddschecker (a betting-odds aggregator) to look at who the bookies reckon will take the Ballon D’Or, and I should not have bothered really as the prediction of Christian Ronaldo taking home the Ballon D’Or is pretty unanimous. Most of the bookies favour a 1) Ronaldo, 2) Messi, 3) Müller list.

Ronaldo and Messi are once-in-a-generation-type players and we are lucky to witness them both. These statistics from last season’s La Liga give you some idea of how absurdly far above the pack these two are.

Christiano Ronaldo finished second to Leo Messi winning the FIFA World Player of the year in 2009 and in the Ballon d’Or in 2011 and 2012. As I have written in Kettle Mag before, Ronaldo’s 2013 Ballon D’Or prize must have been especially sweet for him as it broke the four-year-long Leo-Messi-love-in.

Furthermore, while the World Cup was a disappointment for Christiano and the Portuguese team, the 2013/2014 season saw him not only leading Real Madrid to their 10th European Cup/Champions League, he was the competition’s top-scorer scoring 17 (beating Zlatan by a mere seven goals!) and assisted 4 more goals.

Even if Suárez made the shortlist, I can’t see anyone denying CR7 his second Ballon D’Or.