Ballon d'Or 2019: Did Rapinoe win on popularity?

Georgia Goulding
USA's Megan Rapinoe (left) and Alex Morgan with the adidas Golden Boot and adidas Silver Boot respectively after the game. USA v Netherlands - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Final - Stade de Lyon 07-07-2019 . (Photo by  John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan with Gold and Silver Boot awards. (Getty Images)

Megan Rapinoe has been crowned the latest and second female footballer in history to win the Ballon d’Or. The Reign FC forward joined Lionel Messi as the 2019 winners of the prestigious award in France.

Olympique Lyonnais and England defender Lucy Bronze and Rapinoe’s World Cup winning teammate Alex Morgan shared the podium as they came second and third respectively.

However, despite a successful campaign on the international stage, the US pair have been slammed for receiving their awards, with many believing others were “robbed”.

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Unable to attend the ceremony, Rapinoe said in a video message: “I can't believe I'm the one winning in this field, it's been an incredible year. I want to thank my teammates and the US federation.”

It turns out that many others couldn’t believe she was the one scooping the award either.

When it comes to success, there’s no higher honour than winning the World Cup with your country. However, it seems an international victory acts as the rose-tinted glasses that filter out poor performances elsewhere.

Rapinoe’s domestic form last season was a shadow of her World Cup success. The 34-year-old made just six appearances for National Women’s Soccer League side Reign FC, playing a total of 422 minutes out of a possible 2,160.

She may have been the joint-highest scorer in the World Cup after amassing six goals (including three penalties), but she wasn’t involved in any scored for Reign during the 2019 season.

Her tournament-winning goal against the Netherlands in the final, positive LGBTQ community influence and strong political stances have drawn focus away from a lacklustre domestic campaign.

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Fans of the sport believe there were better contenders for the Ballon d’Or, including Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema and Australian international Sam Kerr. Rapinoe received 230 points following the votes, putting her 136 ahead of runner-up Bronze.

A total of 43 countries cast their votes for their chosen top five, with the points system awarding five for the player in first place. A whopping 34 countries selected Rapinoe as their winner, including Brazil, the Netherlands and France.

MANHATTAN, NY - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe #15 of United States dances with the USA banner behind her during the ceremony on the steps of City Hall after the ticker tape parade down Broadway and through the through the Canyon of Heroes,.  This celebration was put on by the City of Manhattan to honor the team winning the 2019 FIFA World Cup Championship title, their fourth, played in France against Netherlands, at the City Hall Ceremony in the Manhattan borough of New York on July 10, 2019, USA.  (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rapinoe during the USA World Champions parade. (Getty Images)

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An unthoughtful third place

The top three were selected from a shortlist of 20 footballers, a list featuring more plausible third-place takers than Alex Morgan.

Others nominated for the award included US teammates Rose Lavelle and Tobin Heath, as well as the likes of Ellen White, and Brazil’s Marta.

Morgan received 68 points in the Ballon d’Or voting, including Belgium and Costa Rica’s decision to rank her the best in the world.

Orlando Pride, Morgan’s NWSL team, finished rock-bottom of the league last season on 16 points, 33 behind title-winners North Carolina Courage.

Morgan featured six times for Pride in the 2019 season and was unable to score any goals. She made up for this by netting six in the World Cup and sharing the top scorer status with Rapinoe and White.

Five of the 30-year-old’s goals came from a controversial 13-0 win over Thailand in the group stages – a country ranked 39th in the world.

Her sixth goal was against England in the semi-final which led to her trademark tea-sipping celebration.

Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) of USA during the friendly match between Spain and USA at Rico Perez Stadium in Alicante, Spain on January 22 2019.  (Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Alex Morgan's third place Ballon d'Or ranking has come under fire. (Getty Images)

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When comparing Morgan to others who missed out on a Ballon d’Or podium position, the difference is astonishing.

Dutch international Miedema helped her side reach the World Cup final as well as winning the league title with Arsenal and claiming the Women’s Super League Golden Boot.

The 23-year-old netted 22 goals for Arsenal in the WSL alone last season, scoring an extra nine across cup competitions. She was ranked fifth in the Ballon d’Or awards with 38 points, with England and Switzerland the two countries to vote her as their winner.

Miedema’s current goal tally for this calendar year is 44 goals for club and country. Her latest performance included six goals and four assists against Bristol City in an 11-1 WSL triumph.

The Arsenal superstar also won the 2019 PFA Player of the Year award alongside Dutch male counterpart Virgil van Dijk.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk poses with his PFA Player of the Year award with PFA Female Player of the Year Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema during the 2019 PFA Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, Sunday April 28, 2019. Virgil van Dijk has been voted English soccer's player of the year in recognition of his commanding performances in Liverpool's defense as it bids to win the top-flight title for the first time since 1990. (Barrington Coombs/PA via AP)
Dutch duo Vivianne Miedema and Virgil van Dijk with their POTY awards. (PA via AP)

Another player that fans feel was snubbed of a higher ranking was Ada Hegerberg, who was crowned the inaugural winner of the Ballon d’Or Féminin in 2018.

The Norwegian sat the 2019 World Cup out but helped Lyon win both the league title and the Champions League. Her hat-trick in the European final saw Lyon lift the trophy for the fourth year running and rounded off a season goal tally of 23 goals across all competitions (excluding the Coupe de France).

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, Olympique Lyonnais soccer player Ada Hegerberg celebrates with the Women's Ballon d'Or award during the Golden Ball award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris, France. The world’s best player won’t be at the Women’s World Cup. Hegerberg stepped away in 2017 because of what she perceives to be a general disregard for women’s soccer by the country’s federation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
Ada Hegerberg became the first ever female Ballon d'Or winner in 2018. (AP Photo)

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Many are arguing that the Ballon d’Or has lost its meaning and has become more of a popularity contest.

Former England international Lianne Sanderson tipped Miedema and Kerr as the “Top 2 best players in the world” on Twitter.

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