France Football has made four significant modifications to the Ballon d’Or.

Last year’s winner was Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain after winning the trophy for the seventh time in his storied career.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the eternal opponent, has won the trophy five times, while Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, and Marco van Basten have all won three times. They’ve all been judged on their achievements over the course of a calendar year, but that’s about to change.

France Football, which has been awarding the Ballon d’Or since 1956 and debuted the Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018, has announced four major modifications to the selection procedure.

  • “Because the award was created to honour the best player of the year, no changes have been made at this level since then.” Because the BdO honours the best from January to December, it is de facto necessary to judge and compare two half-seasons – January-July and August-December (sometimes accompanied by club moves in the off-season) – rather than a single season in its fullness and consistency.
  • A change in who is in charge of compiling the shortlists: Didier Drogba, the Ballon d’Or ambassador, and the journalists who were closest to correctly predicting the results last year will be engaged in selecting the nominated contenders, which will number 30 for the main prize and 20 for the young player and goalkeeper trophy.
  • A reduction in the number of individuals eligible to vote: last year, delegates from 170 countries participated in the process; this year, only the top 100 FIFA countries – and the top 50 for women’s football – will be able to vote.
  • A minor change to the criteria: because this is an individual award, voters are encouraged to focus on the players’ individual accomplishments rather than their collective accomplishments, with fair play and setting a good example also factoring into the total weighting.

According to the organisers, the players were previously graded for two-thirds of a season, but this time it will be clearer. Lionel Messi edging out Robert Lewandowski to win the award for the record 7th time in 2021 prompted the decision to make the adjustments.

The organisers also announced through Twitter that the World Cup in Qatar, which will take place from November 21 to December 8, will be counted towards the 2023 prizes. They also stated that the award’s criteria will be focused on individual performance first, followed by team performance, and finally fair play.

It remains to be seen what such improvements will entail in practice. When the process resumes later this year, the outcomes will be revealed.

In the previous decade or so, Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the honour. They’ve won the title a total of 12 times.

This season, however, that could change. Since going from Barcelona to PSG, Messi has had less of an impact. After departing Juventus in the summer, Ronaldo is currently playing for a struggling Manchester United.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool is the 3/1 favourite to win the trophy, according to the bookies. Robert Lewandowski (4/1), Lionel Messi (6/1), Kylian Mbappe (8/1), and Karim Benzema (10/1) are among the early favourites for the title.

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