The nominations for the 2013 Ballon d’Or have been released today and the only British nomination is certain welsh wizard currently playing his trade in Madrid. So does the lack of a single Englishman on the shortlist reflect on the current state of our national game? I’m not even suggesting that there is a single credible player who is worthy of the best in the world title (I find it extremely unlikely anyone outside of Messi or Ronaldo are in with a chance) but surely the country that created the beautiful game should be producing players good enough to compete with the world’s best!
This has been coming for a while now. In 2012 the only English nominee was Wayne Rooney who came 15th overall with a measly 0.39% of the votes (he was also the only English nominee in 2011 when he came 5th with just over 2% of the votes). We actually have to go back to 2005 to when we had any Englishmen in the top 3. That year it was Frank Lampard in 2nd place and Steven Gerrard in 3rd place and it has been over a decade since Michael Owen was the last Englishman to be crowned the best on the planet in 2001.
The reason behind this surely has something to do with the fact that the premier league now has just over 30% of English players playing in it. There have been five premier league players nominated for the Ballon d’Or (Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard and Robin Van Persie) all foreigners. Spain which has quickly became the most envied footballing nation in the world after strolling to the last three tournament wins and by producing arguably the greatest club side ever seen in Barcelona have over 60% of home-grown players in La Liga. Since 2008 there has always been at least one Spaniard in the top three and the only reason there hasn’t been a Spanish winner is due to the brilliance of Lionel Messi who has won the last four consecutive awards and even he has been living in Spain since the age of thirteen.
So how do we change this spiral of decline? Well the FA’s commission headed by Greg Dyke despite its recent controversies is to some extent trying to address this by starting at the bottom of the English footballing pyramid to improve the game as a whole. Perhaps they should take a look at Spain and Germany who have in recent times had the strongest national and club sides as both nations completely revamped their footballing ethos and are now reaping the rewards. Premier league clubs have a big role to pay as well in this. A quick glance at the academies of the two most successful English sides Manchester United and Liverpool tell you everything. They are filled with Spanish, American, Belgian and many more nationalities meaning the path of young English talent is instantly blocked as the big English sides scout all over the globe and pluck the cream of the crop rather than looking closer to home. When was the last time Liverpool produced a local lad in the mould of Gerrard or Carragher or Manchester United produce another Scholes or Neville?
As I have outlined there are many factors into the lack of Englishman on the Ballon d’or shortlist and the problems the national game has as a whole. All we can hope for is that Dykes commission can bring some stability to English football and hopefully we can look forward to brighter times. With the amount of money in the game nowadays however I wouldn’t hold your breath.