FIFA Ballon d’Or. Predictions and Media Impact Analysis

Zurich, 7 January 2013, FIFA Headquarters. The best football player of the season 2011/12 will be announced and will be awarded with the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012.

The 23 football players short list was reduced to three finalists on 29 November 2012: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Spanish Liga), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona, Spanish League) and Leo Messi (FC Barcelona, Spanish League). (FIFA official web site)

UPDATE 7 January 2013. Leo Messi wins his fourth Ballon d’Or. Additional info at the end of this post.

Leo Messi, the favourite candidate, based in media value analysis

In a previous post in this site, by June 2012, we predicted that Leo Messi was the main favourite to win the award. Our prediction was established based in the strong relationship between our estimations of media value during the season and the award winning player.

We publish a report every season since 2006 presenting the list of top football players in the world based in global media impact (printed news coverage). This is the top 10 list of season 2011/12.

As we explained in that post, being named the most powerful football player in the world in terms of media impact is not just a matter of pride and satisfaction for Leo Messi, for his club FC Barcelona and for Argentina. As news are like votes for sport talent and performance, becoming the number one during a whole season is an indirect way to say thay journalists all over the world consider that Leo Messi is the best player in the world right now.

In coherence with this hypothesis, we find that in the last four seasons, the football player identified by MRI Universidad de Navarra as the most valuable player eventualy was awarded later as the Ballon d’Or (now FIFA Ballon d’Or), the most prestigious individual award in football. If this is true this next season, our prediction is that Leo Messi will win his fourth Ballon d’Or in January 2013.

Leo Messi, the favourite candidate, based in betting odds

Since June 2012,  when we published this analysis, Leo Messi has performed an incredible start of the season, establishing new world records concerning goals scored during a natural year. His 91 goals set the new reference. Previous top marks were established by Gerd Müller (Bayern Munich and German team, 1972; 85 goals) and Pelé (Santos FC and Brazil team, 1958: 66 goals). This extraordinary performance has strongly increased his favoritism to win his fourth Ballon d’Or.

For instance, online betting sites are predicting as implicit winning chances:

  • Leo Messi: 79.5%
  • Cristiano Ronaldo: 11.5%
  • Andrés Iniesta: 9%

This is the average of implicit odds taken by WilliamHilland Bwin (retrieved by 3 January 2013).


Leo Messi, the favourite candidate, based in surveys in Spanish newspapers

The designation of the winner if the FIFA Ballon d’Or is almost becoming a ‘question d’Etat’ in Spain, as all three finalists play in the Spanish League; it affects archrival clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona; it includes an Spaniard, Andrés Iniesta, who is also the current champion in the UEFA Europe Championship, and it opposed the two  megastars of the current generation of football players Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, both counting already with the Ballon d’Or trophy.

Some months ago the battle appeared somehow more open than now, as opposed to the brilliant individual performance of Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo had also excellent individual number plus a relevant team success as Spanish Liga winner. During the last months there has been an intense ‘campaign’ in the media both in Madrid in Barcelona showing the merits of local player.

As Leo Messi has accumulated astonoshing personal sporting perfomance these last months, the intensity of the campaign has decreased, but of course, many journalists in Madrid and elsewere consider that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to win his second Ballon d’Or.

In order to tackle the sentiments by football followers both in Madrid and Barcelona, we have monitored some open online polls launched by newspapers asking readers about who will win or deserve to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or. It is evident that as the newspapers are open to all, Real Madrid followers can vote in newspaperd from Barcelona and the other way round. But in average, there will be more pro Real Madrid readers and voters in newspapers in Madrid, and pro FC Barcelona readers in newspapers in Barcelona. Results should show the typical home club bias, but we can learn about current sentiment by merging all results.

We present first result concerning polls in newspapers in Madrid. It corresponds to sport newspapers Marca, AS and Punto Pelota program. Total votes:344.228. We present simple non weighted averages.

In Madrid. Who will win the ballon d’Or?

1. Leo Messi: 53.4%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 26.4%

3. Andrés Iniesta: 20.5%

Results from newspapers in Barcelona (La Vanguardia and sport newspapers Sport, Mundo Deportivo). Total votes: 31.076.

In Barcelona. Who will win the Ballon d’Or:

1. Leo Messi: 69.7%

2. Andrés Iniesta: 17.5%

3. Cristiano Ronaldo: 12.5%

Average results Barcelona & Madrid (unweighted)

1. Leo Messi: 61.5%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 19.4%

3. Andrés Iniesta: 19%

The results show that Leo Messi is clearly perceived as the favorite to win his fourth Ballon d’Or, both by readers in Madrid and Barcelona. He has a wide favorable gap against the other contenders.

All our prediction measures annunce Leo Messi as winner. If any one else becomes the winner, this will be a big surprise.

Media Impact of FIFA Ballon d’Or: 2011 Results

FIFA Ballon d’Or is the result of the merger of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, organized by the football magazine France Football, and the FIFA Player of the Year award.

There are many other fooball awards, but FIFA Ballon d’Or is the leading reference in prestige and impact.

We have shown in all our football media value reports that global media value is the key factor determining the commercial power of the football players as brands. There is a direct relationship between our measures of media value and income (salaries and sponsorship deals). There is also a direct relationship beetwen footballer media value and transfert market value.

Winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or is the consecration of the career of any top football player. It means prestige and worldwinde recognition. But it also means a huge direct media impact driven by the winning announcement. This sudden sharp increase of media coverage means then also a direct impact in increasing the media value of the player and the commercial value as a brand.

We present here some references already published in the past concerning the measurement of the media impact produced by the FIFA Ballon d’Or award. It refers to 2011 edition. The award was won by Leo Messi. You can have access here to the report (complete report pdf, in Spanish; summary in English)

There are also other awards given at FIFA gala: best coach, best female player, best goal…

First figure shows that the award to best male football player captures the media attention. Our data say that if we take as value 100 total number of news references to FIFA awards, Leo Messi takes 46 points. Inter Milan coach (now at Real Madrid) José Mourinho just takes 16 points. Best female football player, Marta, just gets 1.1 points of media attention.

media impact fifa ballon d'or prizes messi mourhinho marta prizes


The media power of FIFA Ballon d’Or. A way to show its impact is to compare the media impact of these awards again other awards.

FIFA Ballon d’Or Vs Laureus

We compare first againts the ‘Laureus Word Sport Awards’. They were established in 1999. It includes all sport disciplines.  There are no football players awarded as ‘Sportman of the year’: 7 from tennis, 2 golf, athletics and Formula One. Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal won 2011 Laureus award.

Our results show that there is no point of comparison concerning the media impact of both events: media impact of FIFA Ballon d’Or award is more than 70 times higher than Laureus prize.

media coverage impact of fifa ballon d'or 2011 vs laureus 2013


FIFA Ballon d’Or Vs Nobel Prize

Now we compare the media impact of FIFA Ballon d’Or against the most prestigious prizes: the Nobel prize.

The results are with no doubt striking. We have both global media impact and media impact in the big five football countries in Europe (Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and France).

First column is the media coverage taken by the FIFA Ballon d’Or. If we consider global media coverage, the Peace Nobel prize assigned to Chinese dissident Xiabo received almost three times more news worldwide. Litterature Nobel Prize receives a similar degree of media attention, while scientific Nobel prizes attract less media coverage than the football award.

If we consider just media coverage within the five mentioned countries in Europe, we find that Ballon d’Or award beats all single Nobel prizes in terms of media coverage.

media impact of fifa ballon d'or vs nobel prize 2011

Our empirical data shows how powerful are well established awards. As explained before, in the sport business industry, media impact is not only a matter of pride and prestige: it conveys direct economic returns for the winner.

UPDATE 1 7 January 2013, 6pm CET

In an awful mistake, the prestigious sportnewspaper has published during some minutes in its digital versión the news announcing Leo Messi as Ballon d’Or 2012 winner… 2 hours before the official announcement during the gala ceremony.

This is the photo capture.

Leo Messi Winner Ballon d'or 2013 pic capture lequipe 7 january



UPDATE 7 January 2013

Leo Messi wins FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012.

The distribution of votes is as follows: (source, pdf)

1. Leo Messi: 41.6%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 23.7%

3. Andrés Iniesta: 10.9%

4. Xavi Hernandez (FCB): 4.1%

5. Falcao (Atletico de Madrid): 3.7%

6. Casillas: (RM): 3.2%

If we restrict the percentage of votes jut to the three finalists, the distribution of votes is:

1. Leo Messi: 54.6%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 31.1%

3. Andrés Iniesta: 14.3%

The substantial advantage of votes received by Messi is in line with all the stats we have presented in this post.

The votes of the previous edition were:

Ballon d’Or 2011

1. Messi: 47.9%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo 21.6%

3. Xavi 9.2%

Final voting come from votes by national coaches, national team captains and sport journalists, each group weighting 1/3.

Here are the preferences shown by each group:


1. Messi: 44.4%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 23.1%

3. Iniesta: 8%


1. Messi: 39.8%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 21.7%

3. Iniesta: 10%


1. Messi: 40.7%

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 26.3%

3. Iniesta: 14.8%

There is a certain controversy about the voting system. Some consider that it is unfair that countries with a solid football tradition and sport success have the same power in the final votation than other small countries or countries with almost no football tradition. One country, one vote, up tp 208 countries (here, the official FIFA individual voting list, pdf).

We have reestimated the final results if only countries with a powerful football history had voting rights. We have included in this sample the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Uruguay. We have included in an extended sample also Cameroon and Nigeria.

We present below the ranking based in the short list of countries, and the global official result in brakets.

Results using short list of countries:

1. Leo Messi: 36.2% (41.6%)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 24.8% (23.7%)

3. Andrés Iniesta: 10.1% (10.9%)

4. Falcao: 4.6% (3.6%)

5. Xavi: 4.1% (4.1%)

6. Pirlo: 3.8% (2.8%)

7. Casillas: 3.0% (3.2%)

The conclusion is that top 3 list stay the same, but the gap between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is substantially shortened. Votes from less powerfull football countries has benefited Leo Messi. We find a change of place in the fourth position, as the short list of countries prefer Falcao instead of Xavi.


Other analysis in this site about FIFA Ballon d’Or