Ballon d’Or vs FIFA The Best awards: Explaining the differences

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The world’s greatest football players and coaches currently have two opportunities each year to win coveted individual accolades with the Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards on the calendar.

Each ceremony honors individuals who have made their mark in the game, and have proven to be a good way to gauge who shined the most during specific 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.

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

More than just the name distinguishes these two awards. We break down some of the key points of difference below.

History

If the Ballon d’Or sounds more familiar, it’s because it’s been around a lot longer than FIFA The Best awards.

The first Ballon d’Or was awarded in 1956, while the FIFA awards in their current form were only recently launched in 2017.

Vote

Both awards are decided by a very different group of voters.

Journalists from around the world exclusively decided the winner of the Ballon d’Or awards, except for the 2010-2015 period when there was collaboration with FIFA (see below).

FIFA The Best arguably uses a more democratic system that takes into account votes from national team coaches, national team captains, journalists and fans.

Plan

Another key difference between the two awards is when the voting takes place and the winners are named.

The Ballon d’Or is usually awarded in October and its winners are now based on their performances over a single season.

However, FIFA holds an awards ceremony either at the beginning or end of the calendar year, with winners judged based on their performances over that time frame. The last awards ceremony for the best takes place in January 2024.

Trophy

Last but not least, the silverware players take home, each award is inevitably quite different.

The Ballon d’Or takes the form of a golden ball, while FIFA’s The Best is a platinum trophy that resembles a smaller version of the World Cup.

Has FIFA ever awarded the Ballon d’Or?

While FIFA now has its own, distinctly different awards, it once partnered with French publication France Football to give away the Ballon d’Or.

The relationship began in 2010 and resulted in FIFA postponing its Player of the Year award. The votes of the players and coaches that decided the award and now included in the Best category were combined with the Ballon d’Or vote.

This collaboration saw the award renamed the ‘FIFA Ballon d’Or’ before the two parties went their separate ways in 2015 and FIFA launched its own awards immediately afterwards.

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 Lionel Messi / Alexia Putellas

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

With more than 50 years of extra 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.

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