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Tactical voting, bad jokes, a cringeworthy ceremony and some strange selections saw Fifa's famous gala endure an embarrassing edition on Monday - and it's nothing new either


GOALCOMMENT  

The Ballon d'Or is descending into farce. There was no doubt about the winner in Monday's ceremony in Zurich, with Lionel Messi deserving of the individual prize. But apart from that, there really wasn't much to like about the event at all.

It has been coming. Ever since Fifa took over the running of the Ballon d'Or from France Football in 2010, there have been complaints about the award. Since then, of course, only two players have won it: Messi on five occasions and Cristiano Ronaldo three times. The world's two biggest players from the two richest clubs.

Those two topped the votes this year as well, with Neymar in third place. And even though Real Madrid failed to claim a single trophy in 2015, their representation in the ceremony was still significant. Somehow, Los Blancos boasted four footballers in the FIFPro XI, as many as treble winners Barcelona.

Among them there was only one representative from Bayern Munich, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, but he stayed away along with the rest of the club's players and outgoing boss Pep Guardiola, who was nominated in the coaching category. Largely ignored after their team won the treble in 2012-13, the German champions seem to have had enough of the Ballon d'Or.

They are not the only ones. Italy coach Antonio Conte and goalkeeper Gigi Buffon boycotted the voting after the Juventus goalkeeper was left out of the top 50 players. And Buffon was in good company because former team-mate Carlos Tevez was also absent in the list of 23 when many believed he should have made the final shortlist of three.

It was a happy evening for Barcelona, meanwhile, after Messi triumphed, but it still seems surprising that the Argentine missed out on the Puskas prize for best goal to little-known Brazilian Wendell Lira - especially when it was decided by a fan vote that almost felt like a protest against Fifa's VIP obsession.



FULL STORY | Conte and Buffon boycott Ballon d'Or

Meanwhile, Barca can definitely feel aggrieved at the absence of Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets from the Team of the Year, the latter especially unlucky to miss out to Madrid's Luka Modric, a player who missed several months through injury earlier in 2015.

Perhaps because of all that, Luis Enrique decided to stay away altogether. Barca's sporting director Robert Fernandez picked up the Best Coach award on his behalf, blaming "professional commitments" for the Asturian's absence. However, Zurich is a mere two-hour flight from the Catalan capital and he could have taken time out to attend, especially as Barca take a 4-1 lead to Espanyol in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. But Barca's ban from Fifa is also fresh in the memory, and that could be another reason for Luis Enrique's decision to stay at home.

Meanwhile, organisation at the event itself was chaotic. Some journalists were only advised right at the last minute whether they could enter the auditorium or not and nobody working in the media centre was able to give directions to the gala entrance. And in the end, several press professionals were turned away at the door - even though the ceremony had yet to start.

As it did get underway, presenter Kate Abdo told those watching that Messi had won his last Ballon d'Or in 2009 when that was the year he had claimed the award for the first time. And actor James Nesbitt - a bizarre choice - pleaded with Cristiano Ronaldo to return to his beloved Manchester United. It was a cringeworthy ceremony with awful jokes and the two could be heard on air complaining about changes in the script after the show had come to an end.

Since the voting format changed in 2010, there have been some strange selections and it seems increasingly clear that international captains and coaches vote for their favourites, not necessarily those who had been best in that particular year.







In his latest exclusive column for Goal, Philipp Lahm writes: "I have asked myself: What is the voting for the best footballer in the world all about? Only a player who not only plays internationally, but who is successful on the biggest stages has the necessary relevance to stand a chance.

"You are asked to name three players from a list of candidates. And then you go for the obvious choices. You are stuck with the best-known names, you vote for the 'most visible' players. That's why it has become a vote for the 'world's best striker award' in the end."

Nothing necessarily wrong with that of course, especially when the world's finest footballers are all forwards, but Fifa have been criticised for turning this prize into a media extravaganza. The organisation's decision to extend the voting deadline in 2013 after Ronaldo had hit a hat-trick to secure World Cup qualification for Portugal against Sweden was suspicious to say the least.

On Monday, even Ronaldo was asked about Fifa's problems in the pre-award press conference and said: "Crisis and corruption is not good - in life, not just in football."

Well said, but Fifa's credibility has plummeted in recent years due to the corruption case that has seen president Sepp Blatter suspended. After a cringeworthy ceremony on Monday featuring fluffed lines, bad jokes, a pop performance by the increasingly irrelevant Leona Lewis - plus the now customary tactical voting and some strange results to boot - the Ballon d'Or is now starting to resemble the horror show that is the Eurovision Song Contest. What a shame.