WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES

The Ballon d’Or saga drags on another day

Lionel Messi won a seventh Ballon d’Or on Monday. The result has led to some consternation. It shouldn't matter because, well, the Ballon d'Or shouldn't matter.
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The award – to coin a phrase prevalent in footballing vernacular – is what it is: a fairly subjective but also meaningless vote. Votes - as has been evidenced in recent years - can provide deeply unpopular results. In a vote, voter A may attribute a different weight of importance to value A than voter B, and this can skew results.
For example, anyone who has watched an episode of Strictly Come Dancing will tell you, those different weightings can lead to some other level anomalies. Yet, who actually cares? It is all a bit of fun seeing some celebrity trotting about making a clown of themselves. And that is what the Ballon d'Or should be: a bit of mind-numbing fun of no real importance. Yet, it has been taken far too seriously.

ionel Messi reacts after being awarded the the Ballon d'Or

Image credit: Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti distilled the issues surrounding taking the whole set-up too seriously and the pointlessness of getting het up over the results.
"I have a conflict, you see, because I'm at Real Madrid and, if I had a vote, I couldn't vote for a player who isn't at Real Madrid,” said Ancelotti.
“So, if I had to pick the best, I'd have picked Karim [Benzema] first, Vinicius second, [Thibaut] Courtois third, Casemiro fourth, [Toni] Kroos fifth and then, I don't know, [Eduardo] Camavinga. I must respect the result because to talk about Messi is to talk about one of the best or maybe even the best player, but that's my opinion, but if it would have been up to me, I'd have picked Karim.”
Carlo gets it - it is, in part, a popularity contest that does not matter.
The bizarre regard with which this award is now held is said to have played a significant role in Neymar's decision to leave Barcelona: he felt he could only win it once he had stepped out of Messi's shadow. That has gone well, eh? This fact along with the hand wringing every year is illustrative of, to The Warm-Up's mind, the reality-TV-ification of the world's greatest meritocracy - where winning a popularity contest has somehow acquired as much importance as winning the biggest honours in the world's most popular sport.
The Ballon d'Or is a bit of useless fun but it really should not matter.

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale – not in great shape

Neither Eden Hazard nor Gareth Bale have completed 90 minutes for Real Madrid this season. They are 30 and 32 respectively and ravaged by injury.
Bale last played for Madrid on August 28 and Hazard last started a game for Madrid on September 28 in the 2-1 defeat against Sheriff. The Welshman remains on the sidelines after he picked up an injury on international duty and Hazard is in contention to play against Athletic on Wednesday. Here is what the aforementioned Ancelotti has had to say.
"Eden is fine and has carried out all of the training session with the team," he said.
"He will be with the team [against Athletic]. He has not had any muscular discomfort, only gastroenteritis. Hazard's problem is physical, he has to improve his condition. He has to have minutes. Of course, having minutes will improve his condition. He has to endure, but we have many games and I think he will get minutes."
Ancelotti’s last public mutterings on Bale were even less ebullient, with the coach saying he was not his “father”.
Madrid currently sit atop the Liga table, and are through to the last-16 of the Champions League but it says much when a club can basically write off nearly £200 million worth of talent and still be competing at the highest level. Money is rotting this game, and this is another example of it.

England put 20 past Latvia

England scored 20 goals in their World Cup qualifier against Latvia at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.
There were four match balls taken home, with Beth Mead, Ellen White, Alessia Russo and Lauren Hemp all getting a hat-trick or more.
And coach Sarina Wiegman said after the match that the sport needs competitive games.
"You want competitive games and these are not competitive games," Wiegman said afterwards.
"In every country you want to develop the women's game but I don't think it's good that the scores are so high. I know it has the attention of the federations and I think that's good as I don't think 20-0 is good for the development of anyone.
We really need some top-level games now which we're going to have [next year] because then we'll really know where we are.
The Lionesses have now played six, won six, scored 53 and conceded 0. Of the nine European qualification groups, there are seven teams – England, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and France – who are yet to drop a point.
Deep imbalances are prevalent across all aspects of the international game – men and women – and it is something governing bodies need to look at. Is a two-tier approach to qualifying the way forward? Perhaps, because as Wiegman says, result such as this and England’s recent 10-0 humbling of San Marino serve limited purpose to anyone involved.

RETRO CORNER

On this day in 1886, Arsenal were formed. It, thus, makes sense to reference the Invincibles. Here are the top 10 goals from that season.

COMING UP

Eurosport is your home of European football. On Wednesday we have the following minute-by-minute commentaries from the following matches: Inter v Spezia, Watford v Chelsea, Genoa v AC Milan, Real Madrid v Bilbao, PSG v Nice, Aston Villa v Man City and Everton v Liverpool.
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