What is the difference between The Best and the Ballon d’Or? Explaining the differences

fifa the best

The greatest football players and coaches in the world currently have two opportunities each year to scoop up coveted individual honours with both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards on the calendar.

Both sets of awards recognize individuals who have made their mark in the game, and have proven to be a good way to measure who has shined the most during certain periods.

While these are awards that every player would hope for, there are a few key differences between the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s Best.

The difference between The Best and the Ballon d’Or

First of all, the main difference is that the best is presented by FIFA, while France Football controls the Ballon d’Or. In addition, the governing body awards the best player of the calendar year, while from 2021–22, the French news magazine considers the club season.

They also have a separate voting system. BEST has two stages: First, a panel of experts selects 10 nominees per award. In the second stage, journalists, fans, national team managers and captains all have 25% weightage on the final results. On the other hand, the magazine creates a 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. Later, one journalist from each country ranks the five players.

The merger between FIFA and the Ballon d’Or

The Ballon d’Or has been the most prestigious individual award in soccer since its foundation in 1956. After a long time, the governing body decided to have its own award and therefore created the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991. In 2010, however, FIFA and France Football teamed up to merge the two prizes, creating the FIFA Ballon d’Or. The partnership lasted six years, which is why FIFA created The Best in 2016 to once again have its own award.

Did FIFA ever give out the Ballon d’Or?

While FIFA now has its own, distinctly different awards, they did once team up with French publication France Football to hand out the Ballon d’Or.

That relationship began in 2010 and saw FIFA shelve their World Player of the Year award as a result.

The collaboration saw the accolade renamed the ‘FIFA Ballon d’Or’ before both parties went their separate ways in 2015 and FIFA launched their own awards property.

Which players have won both Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best?

Despite their many differences, both awards have often been won by the same players in the same years.

The only variation to date in the men’s game came in 2021 when Lionel Messi controversially won the Ballon d’Or and Robert Lewandowski was awarded FIFA’s The Best.

Only a few votes separated the players across both awards with many fans and players critical of Lewandowski not taking the Ballon d’Or.

Year Ballon d’Or
(Men / Women)
FIFA The Best
(Men / Women)
2016 Cristiano Ronaldo / — Cristiano Ronaldo / Carli Lloyd
2017 Cristiano Ronaldo / — Cristiano Ronaldo / Lieke Martens
2018 Luka Modric / Ada Hegerberg Luka Modric / Marta
2019 Lionel Messi / Megan Rapinoe Lionel Messi / Megan Rapinoe
2020 (Not held due to COVID-19) Robert Lewandowski / Lucy Bronze
2021 Lionel Messi / Alexia Putellas Robert Lewandowski / Alexia Putellas
2022 Karim Benzema / Alexia Putellas TBD


Why Ballon d’Or is a bigger deal than FIFA The Best

With over 50 years more history, the Ballon d’Or holds a special place in the heart of the footballing world as an annual tradition.

The current generation of players saw their idols lift the golden ball trophy, and it continues to have a real aura around it.

While FIFA has a greater profile around the world when compared to Ballon d’Or organisers France Football, its The Best awards still need time to become more established as the honour that all players dream of from the day they lace up their boots.

“All the work I did, I never gave up. It was a childhood dream,” Benzema said about winning the 2022 Ballon d’Or. Another decade likely needs to elapse before players grow up saying the same thing about FIFA’s The Best trophy.