FIFAs The Best vs Ballon dOr

FIFA’s The Best vs Ballon d’Or – What’s The Difference?

The 2 top individual awards given to male footballers include FIFA’s The Best and the Ballon d’Or.

These 2 awards actually merged between 2010 to 2015, but they eventually split into 2 separate awards.

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

The difference between FIFA’s The Best and Ballon d’Or

FIFA’s The Best is an individual award given each year to the best male football player by FIFA, based on the player’s performance during the previous season. Meanwhile, the Ballon d’Or is the award that recognises the best performing male footballer during the calendar year, and it is awarded by France Football (a renowned French football news magazine).

Here is a further comparison between these 2 awards:


France Football magazine is owned by the French sports media group L’equipe, and they have been awarding the Ballon d’Or accolade each year from 1956, except in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 1991 to 2009, FIFA gave out their award under the old name, FIFA World Player Of The Year.

Both FIFA and France Football merged their awards between 2010 and 2015, and it was known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or. However, the award split into 2 separate awards from 2016, when incoming FIFA president Gianni Infantino decided to have 2 individual awards.

From 2016 onwards, the award being given out by FIFA was renamed The Best FIFA Men’s Player, while the award given by France Football resumed the name of Ballon d’Or.


According to FIFA’s rules of allocation, the nominees for FIFA’s The Best are shortlisted based on on-field performance and behaviour off the field, regardless of championship or nationality.

The nominees are compiled by FIFA in collaboration with international football stakeholders, and are reviewed by a panel of experts in men’s football who trim and compile a shortlist of 11 male players.

The list will be made public on FIFA’s website to allow fans to cast their votes.

From 1956 to 1994, the Ballon d’Or award was given exclusively to European players, and was previously known as the European Footballer of the Year Award.

From 1995, non-European players were eligible to claim the prestigious award. From 2007, it became an international accolade available to any player who performed the best within a year before the last ceremony.

The 30-men shortlist is compiled by France Football‘s editorial team and is made available for voting. The following criteria are used to vote for the Ballon d’Or recipient:

  • Individual and collective performances (winners) during the year
  • Player class (talent and fair play)
  • Overall assessment of a player’s career


The votes for FIFA’s The Best are decided by 4 different groups:

  • Current national team coaches
  • Current national team captains
  • Selected journalists (one from each country with a national team)
  • Fans registered on the FIFA website

These 4 groups each contribute to 25% of the total vote, irrespective of the actual number of members in each group.

Each voter will vote for his first, second and third choice players for the award, and each player will be awarded points:

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

The nominee with the most number of points wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the most 5-point (1st choice) votes will win the award.

In contrast, the Ballon d’Or is decided by journalists from all over the world. They will vote for 5 players from the compiled 30-men shortlist, and each player will be awarded points as well:

1st choice6 points
2nd choice4 points
3rd choice3 points
4th choice2 points
5th choice1 point

The nominee with the highest number of votes wins the Ballon d’Or.

In this way, the Ballon d’Or may be less representative as it only involves journalists, while FIFA’s The Best involve different groups of people.

Time period assessed

For FIFA‘s The Best, the players are assessed based on their individual performance for the previous season. Meanwhile, for the Ballon d’Or, the period assessed is the calendar year.

This may have some differences in the voting, as a player may have a good season, but fail to deliver in the next season.

For the Ballon d’Or, the player will need to be consistent throughout the calendar year, while for FIFA’s The Best, it is only looking at the performance for each season.

One example is Lionel Messi, who scored 91 goals in a calendar year.

Announcement of results

The shortlist for FIFA’s The Best is usually released in November, before the 3 finalists are announced in January.

The winner will then be announced in a ceremony that is held in January.

Meanwhile, 30-men shortlist for the Ballon d’Or will be announced in October, while the ceremony will be held either from late November to early December.

Trophy design

The Ballon d’Or trophy is most notable for its golden ball design, and here is the trophy being presented to Lionel Messi for his 7th win in 2021.

Meanwhile, FIFA’s The Best is a silver-coloured trophy with a ball that is carried by a cup. Here is Robert Lewandowski winning this award in 2021.

Past winners

Here are the past winners of both awards since the split to these 2 separate awards:

YearFIFA’s The BestBallon d’Or
2021Robert LewandowskiLionel Messi
2020Robert Lewandowskinot awarded
2019Lionel MessiLionel Messi
2018Luka ModrićLuka Modrić
2017Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo
2016Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo

For most of these years, the winner is the same for both awards.

However, in recent years, the awards actually were given to different players, particularly in 2021.


Here is a summary of the differences between these 2 awards:

FIFA’s The BestBallon d’Or
Association that
gives award
FIFAFrance football
Year founded19911956
CriteriaOn-field and
off-field performance
Individual and
team performance
Player’s class
Overall assessment
of a player’s career
Number of players
in shortlist
VotingFans, selected journalists, and national
team coaches and captains
Selected journalists
Number of choices
per voter
Time period
Previous seasonPrevious calendar year
of results
JanuaryLater November to
early December
Trophy designA spherical golden ball
on a crystal base
Silver cone with a
spherical ball on top


With a longer history compared to FIFA’s The Best, the Ballon d’Or may be the more coveted award. However, this award is only determined by journalists.

In contrast, coaches, captains and even fans have a say in FIFA’s The Best award. This may result in a slightly more representative vote for this award compared to the Ballon d’Or!

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