UEFA president Michel Platini has questioned the Ballon d’Or voting process after Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery lost out to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ribery, 30, had been considered the early frontrunner for the prize after winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League in 2013, but ultimately finished third behind Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi at Monday’s ceremony in Zurich.
Platini won the award three times in a row in the 1980s, when it had been based exclusively on journalists' votes, and he said he is concerned by the direction the Ballon d’Or is taking since it was merged with FIFA's World Player of the Year award in 2010.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a very good Ballon d’Or winner but, if it continues like that, we’ll come back next year and it will be Messi or Ronaldo and, the year after, Ronaldo or Messi,” he told L’Equipe 21 TV.
Ribery -- the reigning UEFA European Player of the Year -- is the second player to miss out on the award since the rules changed to include the votes of the coaches and captains of national teams in addition to selected European journalists.
Just like Ribery, then Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder won a league, cup and Champions League in 2010 as well as reaching the World Cup final with Netherlands. Sneijder would have won the Ballon d’Or for that year had the old system of voting been in place, but in the end he finished behind Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Platini added: “For 50 years, the Ballon d’Or took into account trophies won on the pitch but something has changed since FIFA took it over. That a Spanish player didn’t win in 2010 after the World Cup and that Franck would not be recognised even though he won everything -- that poses a problem.”
Ribery’s hopes of winning are thought to have been hindered by FIFA’s decision to extend the voting deadline, which allowed Ronaldo’s heroics for Portugal in their World Cup playoff with Sweden to be taken into account, and Bayern president Uli Hoeness had said last month that the club would scrutinise the vote to determine whether it was “democratic.”
At the weekend, he repeated his belief that FIFA’s decision had cost Ribery, telling Abendzeitung: “I believe that some people have done things and that [Ribery] won't win on Monday because it does not suit one or two people's plans that FC Bayern win everything.”
Following the confirmation that Ribery had finished behind both Ronaldo and Messi in the voting, though, Bayern appear to have reluctantly accepted the results.
“It's a democratic vote so we recognise that and send our congratulations, but for us Franck is the best,” Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said in Abendzeitung. “The league and the Champions League are more honest titles.”
The club’s CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, added: “We are proud of Franck Ribery. In a team sport, he has won every important championship and trophy available domestically, in Europe and worldwide.”
Former Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes did at least collect the Coach of the Year prize, but he too felt Ribery was unfortunate.
“We are all a bit disappointed -- the other players, and certainly Franck as well,” he told Sky. “He should draw comfort from winning the Treble and the European Player of the Year award.”
Ribery himself left the ceremony without speaking to reporters, with L’Equipe reporting that French journalists waited for an hour for reaction from Ribery, only to be told by a FIFA official that he had left without warning.
It was left to his agent to outline the player’s frustration, with Jean-Pierre Bernes telling Canal + Sport: “The vote is what it is and the result is what it is. It’s maybe a little bit surprising... trophies have always been important when it comes to deciding the Ballon d’Or.
“Now we can say that the rules have changed, but that’s the way it is. You have to accept the decision with dignity, even if it’s disappointing and surprising for the player.
“But Franck isn’t downhearted. He still has some important goals this season and there will be more good moments for him.”
The France international did later speak to the media, telling German tabloid Bild that he felt the Ballon d’Or was secondary to winning silverware with club and country.
“I am not an egotist and this title is not my goal,” he said. “I would prefer to win everything with Bayern again and lift the World Cup with France. That is important.
“Of course, I would have liked to win, but that’s okay. The Bayern players, and myself especially, are just proud to have been represented here. The accolade would have been great -- for the fans, the club and my wife -- [but] it’s not that important for me. I am just delighted that it’s not an issue now.”