Contributed to by Tanitoluwa Adedotun
From the moment the Ballon d’Or 2019 shortlist of nominees were released, everybody expected Messi and Ronaldo to be two of the top three best players on the continent – the third-best nominee spot is usually up for grabs.
The battle for that third spot is, in fact, the battle of the most potent PR.
PR – Public Relations. A player’s PR team is generally responsible for the amount of “hype” surrounding him/her.
They are the ones in the shadows. The ones you never see, but their fingerprints are everywhere. They’re the ones that make or break a professional football player.
Now, if you know anything about football, you’ll know that the English media are the kings of PR.
A young English player sparkles for a bit, and before you know it, he’s being labelled as the next Lionel Messi. The English hype machine is very well oiled.
Steven Gerrard once claimed in 2010 that Joe Cole could “do anything Messi can do, and more.”
Gerrard can be forgiven for his slip-of-tongue statement. For all we know, it was his slip in 2014 that sustained world peace and delayed Liverpool’s first PL in over 20 years.
The Ballon d’Or 2019 Shortlist
There are two sides to everything in the Universe, and just as there is the obvious negative side to PR, there is also the positive side. Enter Ballon d’Or 2019.
Or let me say the final three-man list (the contenders that emerged top three through votes).
Our favourite nominees were Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona), and Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool). You can check out the rest of the full 30-man Ballon d’Or 2019 shortlist here:
The 30-man shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d’Or 🙌
Pick your winner 👇 pic.twitter.com/x2uj6zBoEt
— Goal (@goal) October 22, 2019
Before you continue, keep in mind that what you’re about to read is an unpopular opinion. It may rile you to the point of unbridled vexation.
However, relax. Stay with me to the end, and you’ll see where I’m coming from. In fact, you may not find my point of view anywhere else concerning the Ballon d’Or 2019 shortlist.
The Top Three Ballon d’Or 2019 Nominees
On first look, these three players were the world-beaters last season, and probably even till now. On closer examination, these three players have little in common.
One is a goalscoring machine in his twilight years. Another is an ageing mind-bending magician. The last is a towering colossus in his prime, who can do just about everything.
If it were to be a case of trophies, the award should have gone to Ronaldo. He won trophies for both club and country – one of them directly at the expense of Van Dijk.
But Ronaldo did not singlehandedly win the trophies for Juventus and Portugal. Although his contribution was invaluable to his national side, Bernardo Silva was arguably Portugal’s stand out performer at the UEFA Nations League.
If it were the case of individual performances, no one deserved it more than Messi. But he only lifted two domestic trophies last term.
If all-round contributions to team performances was the criteria, then Van Dijk should have got it. But he’s only a defender, and he’s just been around for what? 2 years?
It seems odd now that these players dominating different categories have been bundled together in the same nominee list for the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
There are a couple of reasons for this, chief among them is the voting system – the Ballon d’Or is awarded through votes from international journalists, national team coaches and captains.
How PR Helped Van Dijk’s Case
So apart from the undeniable fact that you have to have been an outstanding football player in the previous season, what they don’t tell you is that your PR team must have been outstanding too.
Van Dijk has been immense for the Liverpool team but what is not apparent is that the reason he’s the third-best nominee on the 2019 Ballon d’Or podium is that he’s backed by fantastic PR.
A while ago, the news was doing the rounds that Van Dijk had not been dribbled past for some games (officially the Ballon d’Or nominee went 64 games “undribbled,” if there’s any word like that).
Even when Gabriel Jesus finally dribbled past him during the Community Shield match back in August, his PR team spun the story. The Community Shield does not count as an official match, they said.
Gabriel Jesus’ dribble past Virgil Van Dijk officially didn’t count.
His ridiculous record still stands… 65 games and counting! 😳👏🏼 https://t.co/s9RB8Ib4A6
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) August 7, 2019
His PR team unconsciously attributed Liverpool’s successes to his consistency and superb performances. So much so that most football fans now unconsciously believe it.
Not team manager, Jurgen Klopp, though. Klopp insisted that van Dijk’s UEFA award was a reward for the efforts of the entire Liverpool squad.
Now don’t get the wrong idea. Van Dijk is a Colossus, and we absolutely love him. The Oranje captain does wonders on and off the pitch for both club and country.
But the reality is that for all those heroics to matter, he needed an even more colossal PR team. They won’t take any public credit, but Van Dijk’s PR team got him on this Ballon d’Or 2019 shortlist.
Case in point is Alisson Becker 😌. Golden gloves in 3 major competitions, one more trophy, and mad heroics to contribute to Liverpool’s success last term. The difference? Zero PR.
The Ballon d’Or Winner
Ronaldo is a legend, but I think it is obvious now that Father Time is knocking on his door. Irrespective of however PR is helping this man, I don’t think I need to explain why he’s always going to be on the Ballon d’Or list.
Messi also has a PR team that has been around for ages, locked in a seemingly eternal battle with Ronaldo’s. His performances last term were phenomenal. Based on pure output, the Ballon d’Or winner has statistically been the best player of the last two years.
No surprise he became the first-ever player to win the award six times two nights ago.
It is looking more apparent that the dual monopoly Ronaldo and Messi have had on the Ballon d’Or for fifteen years will soon end.
Perhaps, even from next year, both of these two greats won’t be on the podium together. But then again, you never know😂.
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Till next time, adiós amigos!