Ballon dOr vs UEFA Player Of The Year

Ballon d’Or vs UEFA Player Of The Year – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on June 26th, 2022

Today’s most prestigious individual awards given to footballers include the Ballon d’Or and the UEFA Player of the Year.  

These awards have a great history and retain immense interest from fans and professionals alike. However, there may be some confusion as both accolades may be awarded to the same player!

Here is what you need to know about the differences between these 2 awards:

Messi vs Lewandowski 2021 Balloon d...
Messi vs Lewandowski 2021 Balloon d'or Stats
The difference between Ballon d’Or and UEFA Player of the Year

The Ballon d’Or is an award given to the best player in world football based on his performance and achievements during the calendar year, and it is determined by the esteemed France Football magazine.

On the other hand, the UEFA Player of the Year is handed to the best footballer from the clubs that originate from UEFA countries. This award is organised by the UEFA governing body in partnership with the European Sports Media group.

Here is a further comparison between these 2 awards:

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History

France Football magazine created the Ballon d’Or award in 1956 and has been awarded every year except 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic

During this long period, the L’Equipe-owned France Football and the supreme governing body of football, FIFA, merged their accolades for a while. 

However, from 2010, both bodies awarded a single trophy, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, until FIFA president Gianni Infantino dissolved the partnership in 2015.

You can find out more about the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best here.

On the other hand, UEFA and the ESM media group created the UEFA Player of the Year award in 2011. The award was a direct replacement for the former UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award, which only recognised club efforts.

Another aim of creating the UEFA best player award was to revive the old Ballon d’Or, which had already merged with the FIFA Best award as the FIFA Ballon d’Or. 

Criteria

From its inception until 1994, the Ballon d’Or award was exclusive to players of European nationalities. Therefore, it was previously known as the European Footballer of the Year Award.

However, in 1995, France Football changed the award criteria, and non-European players in European clubs became inclusive of claiming the prestigious prize. From 2007, the award became an intercontinental accolade available to any player who performed the best within a year before the last ceremony.

Every year, France Football’s editorial team compiles a 30-man shortlist, which is made available for voting. More experts like Chelsea legend and Ballon d’Or ambassador, Didier Drogba, will be involved in the shortlisting process with recent modifications.  

Ballon d’Or votes depend on the following criteria:

  • Individual performances during the time period.
  • Collective achievements.
  • Player’s ability and sense of fairplay.

The UEFA Player of the Year accolade maintained the criteria of being awarded to footballers who play for European clubs. As a result, all footballers of UEFA clubs are eligible for the award, irrespective of their nationalities.

Journalists from UEFA countries will vote for these nominees. Players are selected based on their performances in both domestic and international competitions on both club and national team levels throughout the season.    

You can find out more about the differences between club football and international football here.

Voting

Journalists from all over the world will decide on the Ballon d’Or winner. A total of 100 journalists, each representing the top 100 FIFA ranking countries, are responsible for choosing their top 5 players of merit from the 30-man shortlist.

Since the journalists pick their top 5 players and award points to them, their votes are conducted decided by these points:

1st choice5 points
2nd choice4 points
3rd choice3 points
4th choice2 points
5th choice1 point

Therefore, whichever nominee receives the highest vote points will win the Ballon d’Or.

Unlike France Football’s direct approach, the UEFA player of the Year award voting process is carried out in three stages. The jury is composed of journalists, selected by the European Sports Media group, and coaches of teams in the UEFA club competitions. Each member of the jury will vote for the top 3 eligible players of their choice. 

The first voting stage helps to select the 10-men shortlist from the top ten players with the most cumulative points. From this shortlist, the second stage will commence with another top 3 choice from the journalists, which will conclude the final three.

Upon completion of the second stage, the final stage is conducted via live online voting during the presentation ceremony before the award is ultimately presented. Throughout the polls, the point system remains the same:

1st choice5 points
2nd choice3 points
3rd choice1 point

Time period assessed

For the Ballon d’Or, voters previously assessed the players based on their performance during the previous season from August to July.

Likewise, for the UEFA Player of the Year, the time period assessed is also the previous season (from August to July). 

Formerly, the winner of the Ballon d’Or was to be exceptional all year round. This calendar year is usually calculated from November to October, which will contain the early part of the current season and the latter part of the previous season.

Announcement of results

The Ballon d’Or shortlist is usually announced in October. France Football announces the winner at the formal ceremony held in Paris by late November or early December.

UEFA authorities announce their 10-man shortlist for the UEFA Player of the year in August

The eventual winner is crowned at the UEFA awards gala held in Monaco in the same month. At this gala, the UEFA competitions group stage draw also takes place. 

Trophy design

The Ballon d’Or translates to “Golden Ball” in french. Thus, the awarded trophy has the distinct design of a golden ball with a base of crystals

Here is the trophy being presented to George Weah, the only African to win the golden ball:

Meanwhile, the UEFA Player of the Year trophy is in the mould of a shirt. The mould is cast in metal and coated with silver with the winner’s name engraved on the back like a jersey name. 

Here is the trophy being presented to the premier winner, Lionel Messi: 

Past winners

Here are the past winners of both awards in recent years

YearBallon d’Or UEFA Player of The Year
2021Lionel MessiJorginho
2020Not awardedRobert Lewandoski
2019Lionel MessiVirgil Van Dijk
2018Luka ModricLuka Modric
2017Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo
2016Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo

For most years, the winner is the same for both awards. These scenarios are because the best footballer usually plays in Europe and merits both awards.

Summary

Ballon d’OrUEFA Player of the Year
Awarding bodyFrance FootballUEFA
Year Founded19562011
CriteriaIndividual performance
Collective achievements
Player ability and
sense of fair play
Player’s performance at
club and national level 
Number of players
on the shortlist
3010
VotingSelected journalistsJournalists and coaches
Number of choices
for voter
53
Time period assessedNovember – OctoberSeptember – July
Announcement
of winner
Late November or
Early December
August
Trophy designA spherical golden ball
with a base of crystals
A shirt mould of metal coated with
silver and engraved with
the winner’s name.

Conclusion

As the oldest award in football, the Ballon d’Or remains the most coveted prize attainable by players worldwide. However, journalists solely decide the nominees and eventual winners.

In contrast, the UEFA Player of the Year is a more recent development. The award is only open to players in UEFA clubs, where coaches and journalists determine the outcome.

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