Let the image above serve as a clue for the ramble.
Ramble of the Day
As you likely know by now, The Best FIFA Football Awards happened yesterday. The winners are all well known at this point, and the ceremonies are so boring that I don’t even watch them anymore. (I don’t even know what happened during the ceremony other than who won.) Why do I care about The Best, then? Because the ballots are the best.
Year after year, coaches and players, in addition to selected members of the media, vote on the best coaches and players, and year after year, they show how biased and sometimes silly they are with their choices. Most of these ballots are not notable; these are people who took their tasks seriously enough, but there are quite a few gems to be found just by pouring through the many, many pages FIFA publishes right after the ceremony ends. (I feel like it might be fun for other awards shows in other industries to adopt a similar idea, but that’s a different conversation for another time.)
I will get to revealing what I found after all of my work, but I will first admit that I only got around to looking at the male players that cast votes for this year’s awards. To keep things short, I’ve picked only two types of voters to ramble about. Shall we?
The Best friends and the kindest enemies
One thing that has been obvious over the years is that the players will just vote for whichever friends are eligible, from coaches to players. In some ways, it’s a little bit innocent; France captain Hugo Lloris voted for his coach Didier Deschamps, and it could be argued that winning the World Cup warrants winning The Best coach award.
Oftentimes, the players (and coaches) are just playing a more obvious game of favoritism. Harry Kane, for example, voted for his England coach Gareth Southgate, and put him in first place on his ballot, ahead of the World Cup winning coach and the Premier League winning coach.
Few, though, match Lloris’s ballot for Player of the Year. Unafraid, he voted only for his teammates on that World Cup winning France team, none of whom actually actually cracked the top three. That did mean that he didn’t end up picking Kane, but there was only so much room, and winning a World Cup does warrant a lot of plaudits. That was probably the best ballot of them all because he just clearly voted for his friends, but it’s not like they’re not all deserving of the recognition.
Other people who are well known for voting for their friends are players who play for the big Spanish clubs Atletico Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid. They always vote for their teammates, and never vote for their rivals. This year, though, it looks like everyone got a little soft.
At least in the case of Lionel Messi, he didn’t have any teammates to vote for, but there were plenty of players that didn’t play for Real Madrid to choose from. However, he voted not just for Luka Modric, but also for assumed rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who also voted for him. Modric cast a vote for Atleti’s Antoine Griezmann, and Diego Godin also recognized Modric’s great year. Perhaps they’re all getting soft.
The Worst friends who might as well be enemies
As much favoritism as there is in these things, there are a select few people that don’t end up voting for their friends. Of course, they could just be taking their tasks seriously, but let’s just pay a little attention to these people and decide whether or not they hate their teammates and coaches or are just serious voters. Your choice!
As the previous section noted, a lot of people opted to pick their friends, so it might come as little surprise that only three people will get highlighted in this section.
First, we have Giorgio Chiellini, who opted not to vote for his Juventus manager, Massimiliano Allegri. It seems like he took it seriously, voting for Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane, but it’s clear he wants a transfer. He would have picked Allegri over Southgate if he didn’t!
Next up, we have Eden Hazard, who did not vote for fellow Belgian Kevin de Bruyne. His ballot seems pretty serious, too, though I do appreciate the overall unconventional choices. Plenty opted to vote for one of Ronaldo or Messi, and many opted for both, but here we have two recent World Cup winners. It is reflective of a time when we actually have a World Player of the Year not named Ronaldo or Messi.
Finally, we have Ivory Coast captain Serge Aurier, who decided not to vote for Tottenham teammate Kane. Might this cause strife in the locker room, even though Spurs are only just moving out of the quote-unquote crisis? Probably not. Solid choices, though I might argue that Modric and Ronaldo could be swapped.
tl;dr: I spent a lot of time looking at FIFA documents.
Links of the Day
UEFA has officially reopened the Financial Fair Play investigation into Paris Saint-Germain after closing the case in June.
Arsenal’s Petr Cech has said that new coach Unai Emery focuses more on winning points than Arsene Wenger did.
Today’s longer read: Stuart James interviews Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota on moving to England and differences in food from Porto to Wolverhampton for The Guardian