It is a rather odd choice by France Football, holding one of football’s most prestigious events, the Ballon d’Or award show, on a Monday night after cancelling its previous edition due to COVID. Although the red carpet was still a banger — and so was Chelsea legend Didier Drogba’s hosting of the event —, it takes off some of the glamour that the usual weekend-running award events in other entertainment formats have.
But enough about poor managerial choices! It is time to talk about the winners, which there were plenty.
The Ballon d’Or this year had a couple of “surprise” awards to the public, caught unaware by their presence even though they make a lot of sense in the great scheme of things. One of which was the Club of the Year award, with its first recipient being none other than ourselves!
It would be very hard to argue against rewarding Chelsea the Ballon d’Or for their feats last season, both at the men and women levels. The former won their second ever Champions League title against all odds, beating clear favourites Manchester City in a marvellous night here in Porto. Whereas the latter was a tour de force at the domestic level, handily winning the Women’s Super League and the League Cup while getting to the Women’s Champions League final for the first time in history.
The second surprise award was Striker of the Year. The year in which we lost footballing legend Gerd Müller, was also the year where fellow Bayern Munich legend Robert Lewandowski broke his 40-goal record in the Bundesliga which stood unbeaten for almost 50 years. The Polish international was the deserved recipient of the prize.
The Koka Trophy, handed by France Football to the best player under 21 in the world, was given to young Barcelona midfielder, Pedri.
From them on, all eyes were on the most prestigious awards of the night. The Yashin Trophy, named after Soviet Union goalkeeping revolutionary Lev Yashin, had our Édouard Mendy in the running following his heroics to help us win the Champions League last season.
That is when injustice would begin. Although Gianluigi Donnarumma is a great goalkeeper, and was very important to both AC Milan and European champions Italy throughout last season, Mendy was one of the missing pieces in a puzzle that resulted in the ultimate European glory for the Blues.
Mendy came in second in the list, followed by Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, Manchester City’s Ederson and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.
The Women’s Ballon d’Or was perhaps Chelsea’s best chance of earning individual glory, given the lost opportunity in the Yashin Trophy. However Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas, who has been one of the keys in transforming the Catalans into a juggernauts in women’s football, got the award over Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder, Magdalena Eriksson, and Jessie Fleming.
The men’s counterpart of the Ballon d’Or is still the most important prize of the night. Some felt there was a real chance for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho to win it, given how he was clearly the most decorated player of last season by leading winning efforts in both the Champions League and the European Championship.
But some things will never change.
A seventh Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi, formerly of Barcelona and now at Paris Saint-Germain. At the very least the point advantage to second place, Lewandowski, was only of 33 points. Whereas Jorginho was 120 points behind Lewa, with 460 total.
It was not our night in terms of individual plaudits. But football is a collective effort, and I would not mind seeing Chelsea winning the Club of the Year award for seasons to come in exchange for another 50 years of Messi-Ronaldo exchanges of Ballons d’Or.