Let’s say you’re standing in front of three kids. You have a prize — we can say it’s a contraption that’s all the rage, the Toyllon d’Or we’ll call it. One of the kids, Luke, seems as nonchalant about it as possible. Another kid, Christopher, is brooding having missed out on an earlier prize. But one kid can’t seem to think of a world in which they don’t have this particular toy — let’s call him Anthony. In the interest of this kid’s sanity and not creating a scene, you’re probably going to give it to the kid who wants it most.
Antoine Griezmann realises one very important thing about winning and losing individual awards. They are based on a nominee’s popularity rather than some tangible descriptive analysis of their performance. Because honestly, how are these things even decided? Well, it’s a general consensus as to who the best player was over a given time period, the option that causes the least furore.
And noise. Lots and lots of noise. But once that noise has dimmed, the winner will forever be known as the best player on the planet for that short period of time. While the voting for these awards is arbitrary, winning is far from trivial.
Griezmann has campaigned to win the Ballon d’Or now for months. He seems to have enlisted his teammates, manager and club to lobby on his behalf, too — because as ridiculous as these awards are, winning one at a time when two of the greatest footballers to ever live both exist inside and slightly outside of their primes is definitely something. Diego Simeone has said multiple times his French superstar was the best player in the world last season, Lucas Hernández said it’s “the year of Griezmann” and Diego Godín has insisted he doesn’t know what else he would have to do in order to win it.
The point here is that Griezmann probably does deserve to win it. We all know that the Ballon d’Or isn’t really about merit or technique or the actual process of being the best footballer. If that were the case, Lionel Messi would sweep these galas yearly.
Did Leonardo DiCaprio deserve to win the Academy Award for “The Revenant”? I would say most certainly not, but within the context of his previous failures and being overlooked for those awards, he probably was a good shout. And nobody begrudged him.
At one point, Griezmann was the footballing world’s DiCaprio. He missed a penalty against Real Madrid in the Champions League final before he redeemed himself, only to lose anyway thanks to another missed penalty. Then, he was beaten in the Euro 2016 final despite finishing as the top goalscorer.
However, in 2018, he turned around that narrative. While he hasn’t been as explosive as he was in 2016, he has the trophies now. He is the face of a team that won a major title and he is one of the best attackers on a reigning World Cup winner.
There is an argument that perhaps Kylian Mbappé deserves the Ballon d’Or based upon his sheer excellence and explosiveness. But we have to remember the context. He could win five before he is done — to be 19 and already considered, provided nothing goes awry with his development, shows this.
Griezmann is 27, closing in on 28. He is running out of chances and the other times he might have come close will factor into the decision-making process. They might work against him too, though.
Those kids that stand in front of you all want this prize to varying degrees. The one who is pleading is starting to annoy you a little bit, though. And while you are not a sadist, you kind of want to see the fall-out if you don’t give it to him because he has moved from really wanting it to believing he deserves it.
“Luke” Modrić is just as deserving a winner, but the other standout candidate, the brooding one, has influence and might go home to his parents and have you sacked if he isn’t the recipient. Or he could get his agent to annihilate the award ceremony as ridiculous.
Griezmann can beg, plead and push his agenda to the four corners of the earth. But life isn’t always fair, and he probably knows that. No matter how much the Ballon d’Or truly means to him, he also knows that if he can condition people to think he deserves it, then maybe when the gavel falls he will walk away with that shiny, historic trophy under his arm.
Or not, because the defining characteristics as to who is the best are arbitrary.
Being named as the best footballer in the world is not though, and once the dust is settled, Griezmann and everyone in his orbit understands that reaching the profession’s summit is something nobody can take away from him.