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Ballon d’Or 2013: The Year Franck Ribéry Was Robbed

“The 2013 Ballon D’Or was the biggest robbery of my career. It was injustice. There is a lot of politics involved. I saw how Blatter was hugging Cristiano Ronaldo and how his entire family was there. I’m not stupid. It was clear FIFA wanted him to win it.” Franck on the Ballon d’Or 2013

Suffice it to say that the Ballon d’Or has had its fair share of controversy that’s rocked the boat over the years. Shocking perhaps for football fans unaware of the politically orchestrated shenanigans behind the scenes but sadly true.

Case in point – it wasn’t that Matthias Sammer was hardly undeserving of the award in 1996, but till now it’s highly questionable there’s still how he was picked for the award instead of Ronaldo Nazário. And the case of Michael Owen being favoured over Raúl in 2001 was another blatantly questionable mistake.

But the din of the furore escalated in 2013 when the focus on the Ballon d’Or underwent a paradigm shift was absolutely baffling, leaving many disgruntled observers and fans to ponder what was transpiring in the corridors of power.

It was from then on that a player’s performances on the pitch mattered less to the judging panel than the number of social media followers they had. That year saw the final nail driven into the coffin as the once-coveted Ballon d’Or began to degenerate into the popularity contest we know it as has eventually become today.

In all fairness, second place Lionel Messi and the eventual winner Cristiano Ronaldo had come off the back of incredible campaigns, with the Argentinian scoring 42 goals for club and country, while Ronaldo’s notched an eyewatering tally of 66 which left him far ahead of anyone else as 2013’s best goalscorer.

Then there was Franck Ribéry, the Ballon d’Or’s other finalist, who ,although scoring 22 plus his tally of 18 assists, was only just ahead of Ronaldo and Messi’s 15 each. Yet there could hardly have been any doubts the Bayern Munich star was more deserving than any other player to lift the award in 2013. Ribéry had won much more silverware than Messi and Ronaldo collectively.

Both the La Liga stars only had one major honour between them thanks to Barcelona’s success in the league with Atlético Madrid lifting the Copa del Rey trophy, beating Real in the final while Bayern Munich finally emerged with an unprecedented treble. And the star of that winning team was undoubtedly Ribéry.

He was significantly involved in 34 goals during Bayern Munich’s treble-winning campaign and strutted his colours as truly the best player in the club’s most successful team ever, way surpassing Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller in achieving something that even the duo hadn’t managed to some 40 years earlier.

Football is not a science of looking at empirical data like numbers with a simplistic overview to gauge a player’s efficiency and overall performance. That’s because even the most basic statistics don’t always give one the full picture.

Yes, Ronaldo did score 66 goals in 2013. But what is more telling is the undeniable fact that he also achieved that after having more shots than the other two Ballon d’Or finalists combined.

Messi and Ribéry had a total of 238 shots either on or off target in that calendar year, while Ronaldo had taken 296. The Portuguese superstar was also lacking and much worse off when it came to accuracy, conversion, passes, pass completion, interceptions, fouls committed, yellow cards, red cards… the list goes on.

All that wasn’t taken into consideration which leaves one to ponder what the actual criteria for judging penultimate excellence is all about. At the end Ronaldo won, leaving many flabbergasted with mouths agape in bewilderment and disbelief.

Ribéry had more than proven himself to be the best player on the planet in 2013. But he never stood a chance of winning. It all boils down to who has the greatest number of fans now with the buzzing social media following. Were the streets of Paris filled then with Messi and Ronaldo fans? You bet.Ribéry was left standing in the cold from the get-go.

Ribéry wasn’t the first player to ever be done out of the Ballon d’Or and he probably won’t be the last either, but it will always be that award in 2013 which is remembered as the time the coveted individual award really lost its once hallowed aura and glitter.