Since Franz Beckenbauer won the Ballon d’Or in 1976, a total of three defenders have won the ultimate individual award since: Lothar Matthäus in 1990, Matthias Sammer in 1996 and, most recently, Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
It always feels like goalkeepers and outfield players with a more defensive-minded approach to the game, have to achieve a lot more to win the Ballon d’Or – it’s hard to quantify the defensive equivalent of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring over 50 goals in a calendar year.
Interceptions, slide tackles and clean sheets aren’t as attractive as goal records – it speaks volumes that many people have been – and continue to be – duped by the made up social media stat of: Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi conceded a mere 29 goals in 196 games together at AC Milan.
It’s very hard to have defensive records that make football fans genuinely do a double-take – whereas it’s easy to appreciate the impressive feat of Cristiano Ronaldo scoring more than a goal a game in his Real Madrid career of 300+ games.
And this is showcased in the very fact that only three goalkeepers made the Ballon d’Or shortlist for 2017, and just four defenders were deemed to be in amongst the 30 best footballers of the current calendar year.
As usual, Sergio Ramos made the list – this is the Spaniard’s fifth time – but the other three candidates are, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in the running for the first time: Bayern Munich’s, Mats Hummels, AC Milan’s, Leonardo Bonucci, and Ramos’ Real Madrid teammate, Marcelo.
As with all these awards – and that’s not just the sporting world’s issue – the process is too long; Leonardo Bonucci’s controversial move to Italian giants AC Milan has gone about as well as Jonathan Woodgate’s to Real Madrid. Therefore, when the former Juve defender’s name is read out at the awards ceremony, it will be met with a few raised eyebrows and wry smiles.
Social media, despite it’s growing negativity, remains the best way for us to gauge public opinion on anything, from who is going to win I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, to the best place to get yourself a lunchtime meal deal.
And it’s that very reason why it is hard to look past Sergio Ramos to be, at the very least, the highest-placed defender on the list.
Twitter is awash with discussions over the former Sevilla defender, and whether those comments are positive or negative, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.