Another year has passed and a 23 man shortlist has been made for Ballon D’or. The last four years we have seen the magnificent Lionel Messi collect the award on every occasion and the last three years Cristiano Ronaldo has taken second place. This year could potentially be the same, and not many would argue against it. As individuals they are the greatest footballers of the current generation.
I’m going to discuss who deserves the award from a statistical point of view, not through what they have won throughout the season with their respective teams, but what they have done as individuals.
Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain won their respective league with Bayern Munich winning the biggest prize in European club football, the Champions League. 13 of the 23 players shortlisted for the Ballon D’or were part of the title-winning clubs mentioned above last season, six of whom were part of the squad which won the treble with Bayern Munich.
Now to assess the players, I cannot compare them all the same, as attacking players would out trump defenders in scoring and creating goals. So to make this as fair as possible I will categorise the players in their selective groups (e.g. goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers) and look at the individual stats to see which players could shock in regard to player performance.
Another issue with the shortlist is that it contains only two defenders and just one goalkeeper. If there is no one to compare to in their respective category, I will pick the goalkeeper and defender who won the league of that nation and the runners up of the Champions League (Borussia Dortmund).
The goalkeepers who were a part of their respective league-winning teams and runners up in the Champions League are as followed:
|Manuel Neuer (Germany)||Bayern Munich|
|Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)||Juventus|
|David de Gea (Spain)||Manchester United|
|Víctor Valdés (Spain)||Barcelona|
|Roman Weidenfeller (German)||Borussia Dortmund|
|Salvatore Sirigu (Italian)||Paris Saint-Germain|
To look at who was statistically the best goalkeeper last season, I will base my data on:
- Clean Sheets
- Shots saved
|Clean Sheets||Total Saves|
|Manuel Neuer||Bayern Munich||31||136 (Played 60)|
|Gianluigi Buffon||Juventus||23||158 (Played 57)|
|David de Gea||Manchester United||12||141 (Played 44)|
|Víctor Valdés||Barcelona||14||97 (Played 49)|
|Roman Weidenfeller||Borussia Dortmund||13||124 (Played 48)|
|Salvatore Sirigu||Paris Saint-Germain||25||115 (Played 45)|
I have collected all the data from league and International games for the players in the 2012/2013 season. Manuel Neuer had the most clean sheets last season with a fantastic 31 shut outs. Most surprisingly, Salvatore Sirigu had the best clean sheets to games played ratio, with an impressive 1.8 games a clean sheet.
As Manuel Neuer had played 15 games more than Sirigu and with only a slightly worse ratio (1.9), Neuer takes it for the best goalkeeper last season, with Sirigu a close second.
As most teams play with four at the back, to gather information for 24 players would be very difficult. To make it fair and reliable, I have picked the best defender of the aforementioned teams.
|Philipp Lahm (Germany)||Bayern Munich|
|Thiago Silva (Brazil)||Paris Saint-Germain|
|Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)||Juventus|
|Gerard Piqué (Spain)||Barcelona|
|Nemanja Vidić (Serbia)||Manchester United|
|Mats Hummels (Germany)||Borussia Dortmund|
To analyse who statistically was the best defender last season, I will look at:
- Clean sheets
- Goals conceded
- Goals scored
- Assists created
I will not include international fixtures for outfield players, only league and tournament competition.
|Clean Sheets||Goals Conceded||Goals Scored||Assists Created|
|Philipp Lahm||Bayern Munich||28 (Played 45)||30||1||19|
|Thiago Silva||Paris Saint-Germain||21 (Played 34)||22||4||0|
|Giorgio Chiellini||Juventus||18 (Played 31)||24||1||2|
|Gerard Piqué||Barcelona||11 (Played 47)||54||3||0|
|Nemanja Vidić||Man. United||9 (Played 22)||19||1||0|
|Mats Hummels||Borussia Dortmund||9 (Played 40)||50||4||
From the data collected, Phillip Lahm leads the ‘clean sheets’ and ‘assists created’ by quite some distance. Thiago Silva has the least amount of goals conceded, with himself and Mats Hummels top goal scorers with four goals each.
Phillipp Lahm and Thiago Silva both have the same ratio of clean sheets to games played with an impressive 1.6, and Giorgio Chiellini is just behind with a very impressive 1.7.
The first category of my article to include only Ballon D’or nominated players as there are seven to choose from. Arguably this is the most difficult position to get statistics for as most of them play different roles for their respected club. The seven nominated players are as follows:
|Andrés Iniesta (Spain)||Barcelona|
|Thomas Müller (Germany)||Bayern Munich|
|Mesut Özil (Germany)||Arsenal|
|Andrea Pirlo (Italy)||Juventus|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)||Bayern Munich|
|Yaya Touré (Côte d’Ivoire)||Manchester City|
I will look at the stats for this category based on:
- Win percentage
- Goals scored
|Games Played||Win %||Goals scored||Assists|
|Thomas Müller||Bayern Munich||44||88.6%||22||15|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger||Bayern Munich||45||86.6%||9||9|
|Yaya Touré||Manchester City||42||57.1%||10||6|
The data above reveals some very interesting results. Thomas Muller leads the ‘win percentage’ column with an impressive 88.6% win rate, followed closely by Bastian Schweinsteiger with 86.6%. The most unexpected result was undoubtedly Mesut Ozil with an 85.7% win rate when playing for Real Madrid and with a combined total of thirty goals and assists, which you could argue means he had the better year, ahead of Schweinsteiger.
Thomas Muller with an incredible combined total of 37 goals and assists last season shows he was quite clearly the best midfielder out of the seven.
Six wingers have been nominated for the Golden Ball this year, as I have enough players to complete the stats, I will only use the six nominated. The players nominated are:
|Gareth Bale (Wales)||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)||Real Madrid|
|Eden Hazard (Belgium)||Chelsea FC|
|Franck Ribéry (France)||Bayern Munich|
|Arjen Robben (Netherlands)||Bayern Munich|
This is the first category without a German player.
For this category, the data will be made up of;
- Assists created
In my opinion a winger’s role should be to provide for the striker and to score should be a bonus.
|Games Played||Assists created||Goals scored|
|Gareth Bale||Tottenham Hotspur||45||10||26|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||59||11||57|
|Eden Hazard||Chelsea FC||64||20||14|
|Franck Ribéry||Bayern Munich||42||18||11|
|Arjen Robben||Bayern Munich||30||11||13|
Very interesting results are shown from the table. Strictly looking at assists, Eden Hazard is on top with 20 assists and Frank Ribery second with 18 assists.
I then combined both assists and goals in games played to create a ratio for each nominee, the results are shown below:
Based on the ratio, Neymar has the best stats with the ratio of 0.79. This impressive stat suggests, on average, Neymar will have either scored or assisted in every match played last season. Cristiano Ronaldo is second with a ratio of 0.86. The rest of the nominees, on average, produced either a goal or assist in every other game.
Seven players have been nominated in the striker category. This is arguably the easiest group to decide, judging them solely on how many goals he has scored. The following seven players are:
|Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)||Paris Saint-Germain|
|Radamel Falcao (Colombia)||AS Monaco|
|Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)||Paris Saint-Germain|
|Robert Lewandowski (Poland)||Borussia Dortmund|
|Lionel Messi (Argentina)||Barcelona|
|Luis Suárez (Uruguay)||Liverpool FC|
|Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)||Manchester United|
Strikers are seen as the end product of any team. Therefore, I will analyse the following:
- Goals scored
- Goals scored in individual matches
With regards to the ‘goals scored in individual matches’ column; a player can score a hat trick in 5 games and it looks like a fantastic record. However, a player who scores one goal a match in fifteen consecutive matches is a more accurate way to identify the nominee’s performance for last season.
|Edinson Cavani||Paris Saint-Germain||38||26 (Played 43)|
|Radamel Falcao||AS Monaco||34||24 (Played 41)|
|Zlatan Ibrahimović||Paris Saint-Germain||36||26 (Played 47)|
|Robert Lewandowski||Borussia Dortmund||35||27 (Played 48)|
|Lionel Messi||Barcelona||60||36 (Played 50)|
|Luis Suárez||Liverpool FC||30||23 (Played 44)|
|Robin Van Persie||Manchester United||30||24 (Played 48)|
Clearly Lionel Messi stands out with an impressive record of 60 goals scored in 50 matches, no other player comes close. Second place is Edinson Cavani with a record of 38 goals in 43 matches.
The Player & Team of the Year
The best player from each category finishes like this:
To determine who has been the best player of the five listed, is to find who had the best stats in their respected groups. In my opinion Thomas Muller should win the Ballon D’or, Lionel Messi second and Phillip Lahm third.
The team of the year, I will place who had the best stats in their groups into a 4-4-2 formation. The team of the year looks like this:
Thiago Silva -Mats Hummels – Giorgio Chiellini – Phillip Lahm
Neymar – Thomas Muller – Mesut Ozil – Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi – Edison Cavani
Written by Guest Author James Ferrier