Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are widely recognized as the best soccer players in the world, but they don’t see it that way.
Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other in voting for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or Award. The soccer superstars are among the 209 national-team captains and coaches (as well as select journalists) whose votes determine the award winner. Ronaldo received 37.66 percent of the votes, while Messi (15.76 percent) narrowly edged Manuel Neuer (15.72 percent) for second place in the voting. Neither superstar contributed to the other’s tally.
Ronaldo voted for three of his Real Madrid teammates, picking Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema with his first-, second- and third-place votes, respectively. Messi voted for his Argentina teammate Angel di Maria for first place and gave his Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano his second- and third-place votes.
The rivalry between Ronaldo, Portugal’s captain, and Messi, Argentina’s captain, is real, and the two admittely aren’t great friends. It’s not a great shock that Ronaldo and Messi did not vote for each other.
The personal nature of Ballon d’Or voting is evident in some of this year’s voting. Some are genuine head-scratchers.
Other strange votes include:
Antigua and Barbuda captain Quinton Griffith gave Thibaut Courtois his first-place vote. Courtois was outstanding for Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Belgium throughout 2014, but Neuer was a finalist and had a strong case to become the first goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or since 1963.
Tahiti-based journalist Luc Ollivier picked Pogaba first. Lesotho-based journalist Thabang Matjama and Vanatu-based writer Raymond Nasse gave Pogba their second-place votes. Malta-based journalist Charles Camenzuli and Congo captain Prince Alban Oniangue gave Paul Pogba their third-place votes. Pogba is a budding superstar, a future Ballon d’Or winner and perhaps the best young player in Europe. But Pogba didn’t feature in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League (with Juventus), and France fell out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals.
USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann omitted Messi from his ballot altogether. Klinsmann voted for Neuer, Ronaldo and Arjen Robben (in that order), but Messi’s Golden Ball showing at the 2014 World Cup and ongoing heroics with Barcelona weren’t impressive enough for the German-American tactician.
Eddy Kabelu, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Togo-based scribe Mathias Ayena gave their second-place votes to Mario Gotze. Scoring the game-winning goal in the World Cup final elevated Gotze to mythical status, but picking him second is a step too far. Gotze, 22, didn’t even start in Bayern Munich’s most important Champions League games in the tail end of 2013-14, and Germany used him as a super-sub in all but one of its seven games at the 2014 World Cup. Gotze cemented himself as a starter for club and country in the last six months of 2014, but his performances don’t warrant the adulation Kabelu and Ayena have given him.
See the full list of 2014 Ballon d’Or votes on FIFA.com.
Thumbnail photo via Walter Bieri/The Associated Press/Keystone