By Luis Miguel Pascual
Paris, Oct 14 (EFE).- The editor-in-chief of France Football, Pascal Ferré, refuses to be drawn on who will be crowned the next winner of the coveted Ballon d’Or on Monday, which Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is widely tipped to win.
The French striker was central to Madrid’s 2021/22 campaign, leading Real to the LaLiga title and the club’s fifth Champions League in the past nine years.
But the club is not only adept at securing success on the pitch — “Madrid knows how to orchestrate campaigns” that propel their star players to the Ballon d’Or, the sport’s most prestigious individual honor, Ferré tells Efe in an interview.
“Florentino Pérez is someone who is really attached to the Ballon d’Or – he does not hide it – and (…) I think Pérez is among the figures at Madrid who orchestrate the various campaigns, all in a soft, tacit manner,” he says, adding that “there have never been any (rule) breaches or anything – what they do is authorized.”
The chief of the magazine that has been awarding soccer’s top individual prize since 1956 points out that while clubs campaigning for certain players do not guarantee a win, they can mean a player losing out on the trophy “when there is a bad message or a bad gesture.”
“There are machines, like the ones at Real Madrid, that are very strong. Their intelligence is that each time they back one single player. For a long time that was Cristiano Ronaldo, and for the past two or three years they have backed Karim Benzema,” he says, explaining that that approach prevents journalists from voting for less lauded players.
“They know how this works. It’s no coincidence that it is the club that has won it the most times,” Ferré says.
While a player’s reputation off the pitch is also a factor when it comes to attributing points, Ferré does not believe that the conviction for complicity in blackmail handed down against Benzema should stop him from becoming the first Frenchman to win the award since Zinedine Zidane in 1998.
For the first time in 15 years, Argentine Lionel Messi, winner of seven Ballon d’Or trophies, has not been named on the shortlist, a major milestone in the award’s history, according to Ferré, who believes that “the Ballon d’Or is Messi and Messi is the Ballon d’Or”.
“His record is going to be very difficult to match,” he says. “He is someone who embodies the Ballon d’Or well, because he combines individual and collective performance, but also a certain idea of spectacle and longevity.”
Messi’s haul is unsurpassed by anyone, with only Cristiano Ronaldo’s five trophies coming close to matching the Argentine’s.
“It is a very important award for them. The Ballon d’Or is one of the few things that cannot be bought,” Ferré adds.
Messi and Ronaldo “have starred in one of the most intense rivalries in the history of sport,” says Ferré, who is happy that the Ballon d’Or has fueled the historic duel, which he doubts will be repeated any time soon.
“There is a lot of talk about the rivalry between (Kylian) Mbappé and (Erling) Haaland, but neither has won the Champions League. At Mbappé’s age, Messi already had two Ballon d’Ors, so if they want to establish a similar rivalry they have to start winning major trophies now. Messi and Ronaldo didn’t take that long,” he says. EFE