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Stoichkov critical of Ballon d'Or criteria

Former Ballon d'Or winner Hristo Stoichkov believes the FIFA award, the latest winner of which will be announced in January, is a farce.

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery are the leading candidates to take the prize at an awards ceremony in Zurich next month, but Stoichkov, the 1994 winner, is confused as to what criteria is now being applied to determine the winner.

Giving the prize in the summer would make more sense, according to the 47-year-old, who told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that it should reflect a player's achievements over the course of a single season and not a calendar year, when the end of one campaign and the start of another are two separate entities.

"I think the Ballon d'Or should be earned between August and June, within those seven to eight months," he said. "If the award is given in January, what happens? Franck Ribery wins four titles with Bayern, in the same year, Messi wins the title and Ronaldo wins nothing. What happens then if Ribery is injured and does not play from August to December? If Messi and Ronaldo score plenty of great goals while Ribery is not playing, who gets the award then?

"What's the point? The award should be given year-by-year, not for one-and-a-half years. It's just FIFA's latest brainchild. And then they give another 10 or 20 days to give the chance of those who will play at the World Cup to get more votes. It's not fair."

One aspect Stoichkov will not dispute is that Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery are the three players most worthy of winning, no matter what criteria is applied.

"These are three players who make the difference," Stoichkov added. "Messi, Ronaldo, Ribery -- the whole world is admiring them. I think Ribery has a big chance of winning it. [UEFA president Michel] Platini wants him to get it because he's French."

While questioning the logic behind the award, Stoichkov is nevertheless honoured to be on the former winners' list.

"I'm still proud that a small country like Bulgaria has a Ballon d'Or winner," he said. "It's a privilege to have this award, and I'm proud of what I did for Barcelona and Bulgaria."

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