The 2019 Ballon d’Or vote was always unfairly weighted towards Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, says Demba Ba, with the former Chelsea striker saying his fellow Sengalese Sadio Mane was a more deserving winner.
Mane was, however, to only finish fourth in the battle for a prestigious Golden Ball.
Ba believes his countryman would have been overlooked even if his statistics had been swapped with Messi, with top individual honours having become more of a popularity contest than a reflection of form.
The ex-Premier League frontman told The Independent of a man recently crowned African Player of the Year: “These days we speak so much about statistics - I believe that he had the individual and collective stats to have won the Ballon d’Or.
“I always said if you swap Mane’s stats in 2019 with Messi’s, Messi still would have won it, even with fewer goals.
“The fact that Mane won the Champions League, the Super Cup, he played an unbelievable season and finished joint top goal-scorer in the Premier League, it’s crazy! Not only that, he was decisive in all of the games. I believe he could’ve won it.”
Ba added: “I’ve had this talk with a lot of players. They say ‘yeah, but Messi is a better player’. Of course, everyone knows that!
“Even if Sadio comes and tells me that he’s better than Messi, I’d slap him in his face and tell him ‘shut up boy, sit down!’ But in 2019, in my perspective, he had a better season.”
Mane is starring again for Liverpool in 2019-20, much to Ba’s delight.
With faith being shown in academy graduates at Stamford Bridge, Ba hopes the Blues will resist the urge to spend big after seeing a transfer embargo lifted.
He added: “I would love to see them continue doing what they’re doing.
“Those youngsters are proving themselves every week. They’re not as experienced as some players who are 27 or 28 so maybe Chelsea could sign some experienced players to help them win the important games, the biggest games.
“It doesn’t mean they have to spend hundreds of millions – I believe small additions can help them.
“I saw a picture that shows how much Liverpool sold [Philippe] Coutinho for, and the players they bought with this money. The team that they built, it’s unbelievable!
“This year, Chelsea won’t be far off and I believe if the management let Frank do what he’s doing, next year they will surely fight for big titles. I have faith in Lamps.”