Although FIFA has moved back and forth between the FIFA World Player of the Year award, FIFA Ballon d'Or and recently, the Best FIFA Men's Player, Ballon d'Or will always be considered the top recognition for the World's best male footballer.
An iconic name for an equally iconic award, given only to the very best, but is that really so? There seem to be two fundamental problems with this award and its criteria, which make it totally unnecessary to give such an award.
The first problem is the impossibility of isolating individual performance from the collective performance. The second is the false presupposition that attacking always has a priority over defending. These two problems make the award completely meaningless.
The first issue is an epistemological one, meaning that we cannot truly assess how much to the individual benefits from the collective action or how much they solely contribute to it. The only thing we can assess is the product of this collective action, namely the gameplay.
The performance of one player changes automatically when players around him change, and this is not a possibility but a necessity. It is impossible to imitate the performance of another player flawlessly and thus we violate the first and foremost criteria for a research, the sameness of the variables other than the variable we want to assess.
For instance, we claim that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, and he is capable of playing football better than any other player in the world. What does this actually mean? For example, have we put Cristiano Ronaldo into the same team, same strategy, and all the same empirical conditions before making such claim? Or do we take it granted that Real Madrid equals FC Barcelona in our research, which would be a laughable mistake in the scientific world? The reason is simple, as one cannot assume that since the success rate of the teams is alike, their properties will also be exactly the same.
Added to that, how can one truly know that there is no player, who plays for a much smaller club than FC Barcelona, did not put the greatest effort possible. By this I mean he performed literally to the best of his abilities if there is a way to assess it.
What if Lionel Messi's good performances seem better to us than this unnamed hero's because clearly, the Argentinian has better opportunities. Thus, our assumption of the world's best player grasps only our limited empirical experience which is bound to televisions and twitter and has no ground to suggest a candidate which has exhausted all the physical possibilities that truly proved his quality.
On the other hand, what makes attacking intrinsically more valuable than defending? Is it because scoring goals are harder than not conceding goals? How did we come to know that a defender has not had the hardest time facing the opponent attackers so that the struggle of his attacker teammates seemed like taking a candy from a baby?
Nowadays, defending and disrupting the opponent's game holds more importance in most coaches' strategies, and people like Mourinho, Conte, and Simeone won numerous trophies using their defensive excellence.
Hence, why always forwards or attacking midfielders are being selected for Ballon d'Or? Because the trophy itself is a child of industrial football that needs to sell more shirts, shorts, and shoes by emphasizing the superficial and egoistic side of football, the one player to rule them all. Thus, for the sake of positive and collective football, we must reject these kinds of meaningless awards.