Early Prediction and Betting Picks for Who Will Win the 2018 Ballon d’Or
Winning the Ballon d’Or is one of the biggest dreams of each soccer player out there. There are people that don’t like the award that much, including the author of this post, but it means the world to every athlete.
Unfortunately for most of the current players, the prize has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the past decade or so. Those two have won the Ballon d’Or five times each since Ronaldo’s first victory in 2008, and the Portuguese forward was first in the rankings in the past two years.
However, there are some early indications that we might see a different winner this time around. Luka Modric was declared as the best player of the 2018 World Cup in the summer, and he won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award and the FIFA’s Best Men’s Player award.
Naturally, the Croatian maestro is the hot favorite for the Ballon d’Or as well, but there is still time for that. I think it’s worth exploring the betting odds and checking if there are some opportunities to win cash.
Of course, it’s still a bit early, but I feel the timing is right for an early preview. I intend to go through each of the favorites and evaluate their chances, but before that, let’s start with something else.
How Is the Winner of the Ballon d’Or Decided?
First things first, so it’s probably best to check the whole process behind the final Ballon d’Or decision. I will try not to bore you with too many details – don’t worry.
There have been quite a few differences throughout the years, especially since FIFA actually merged its annual awards with the Ballon d’Or, but the prizes were separated again in 2016.
As a result, the most popular award has returned to its roots and is determined by the votes of soccer journalists from all over the globe. They cast their votes for the best player of the year, and each brings points to the selected athlete.
While we’re at it, I would also like to point out that according to the official criteria of the competition, the prize is awarded purely to recognize the individual performances of the player throughout the year. His team’s achievements don’t count.
In reality, we all know that’s not the case. The journalists always have in mind the trophies won at the end. I won’t really get into the argument of if that’s the correct way, because that won’t change much.
The important thing is to actually consider this fact when you bet on the winner. With that said, let’s move on.
Criteria You Need to Evaluate When Betting on the Ballon d’Or Winner
It’s important to know what exactly should be considered when trying to predict the winner of the prize. I will go through what I consider the most important aspects of each player and his performance throughout the year.
Position on the Pitch
A closer look at the list of Ballon d’Or winners shows that certain positions are way more likely to land the award compared to others.
Simply put, you have to be a midfielder or a forward to have a chance. As an admirer of the art of defending, this is the reason why I feel the Ballon d’Or is not a justified reward. As a bettor, though, I’m forced to take that into account.
Another important factor, probably related to the first one, is the hype surrounding the players. I’m not sure if that was the case in the early years of the Ballon d’Or, but it’s certainly crucial right now.
With all my respect to soccer journalists that cast a vote, they are certainly at least somewhat biased towards the players who gain the most attention. We all are for the simple reason that the sport has become a huge business.
We constantly hear and watch the achievements of the most popular players across the globe. The likes of Ronaldo and Messi are the best examples of that. We all know how good they are. I would argue that if one of them is matched by another player, the unconscious bias makes the difference.
In a way, I would call that a handicap. Their consistency throughout the years has deservedly built a reputation that works in their favor.
Since this is the main criterion according to the official rules of the Ballon d’Or, and it certainly plays a huge role. Simply put, a player has to perform well and show consistency.
This includes playing well on a regular basis but also showing up against the big teams. One of the reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo won the last two Ballond’Ors is his performance in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
The Portuguese striker scored a bunch of goals against the best teams in Europe. If you add his constant production against the teams in the Spanish La Liga and Portugal’s opponents in international games, it’s easy to see why Ronaldo was declared the best player in the world.
Trophies and Team Performance
As I already mentioned, the team performance shouldn’t matter for the final Ballon d’Or rankings, but it does. You will often see the best player of the best European team get the award at the end.
International tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, the European Championships, and Copa America can also have a huge impact on the prize if one of them is played during the year. Since we had a World Cup in 2018, this could be one of the deciders.
Other Individual Awards
I’m not sure if I should put the other individual awards in the list of criteria, as they are more of an indicator of what’s about to happen.
If you see a player win the FIFA Best prize or the UEFA Player of the Year award, you could expect that he will be in contention for the Ballon d’Or as well. The different voting system means that the result may be different, but it’s the same often enough.
Since the UEFA Player of the Year award was founded in 2011, initially as European Player of the Year, there have been only two cases when a different athlete won. On the other six occasions, the winner of the competition and the Ballon d’Or was the same person, including the last 4 times.
It’s safe to say that you can rely on other prizes to give you an idea of what to expect.
Ballon d’Or 2018 Winner Predictions
As I now have explained the main factors behind my thought process, it’s time to take a look at each of the top contenders. Here are some of the favorites to win, according to the bookies.
Here’s my analysis on each of these players and their chances of winning.
Luka Modric 1.57
I don’t think we’ve seen someone as close to breaking Ronaldo and Messi’s reign as Luca Modric. The Real Madrid midfield magician has been magnificent in the past year and certainly deserves to be among the Ballon d’Or favorites.
Modric helped his club win the Champions League, probably the most important trophy out there. On top of that, the Croatian won the UEFA Player of the Year Award mostly because of that.
A lot of people believe that Ronaldo should’ve been the man to take it home, including his agent, Jorge Mendes, but Modric certainly was a worthy winner.
I think what makes the Croatian such a favorite is his performance with Croatia at the World Cup in Russia. The side reached the final of the competition for the first time, which is a monumental achievement for a country with a population of only about 4 million people.
It was Modric’s partnership with Ivan Rakiticthat was the main reason Croatia went so far in the World Cup. Despite coming second-best against France in the final, his country’s run helped Modric improve his already flawless reputation, as he showed leadership on top of his undoubted skills.
I fully expect to see Modric with the Ballon d’Or as a result of the incredible year he had. However, the price of 1.57 makes a potential bet pointless. There are other players who have a shot, so such odds are too low for my taste.
Cristiano Ronaldo 2.25
The Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or five times already, including in 2016 and 2017. Many believed he would be the man to bring the prize home in this year, too, but the World Cup and the fact Ronaldo was snubbed by both FIFA and UEFA changed the perception that his victory was almost certain.
If we exclude the World Cup, the Portuguese striker is probably the man who deserves it the most. He scored a bazillion goals in all the competitions he played in, and he became the most prolific scorer in the history of the UEFA Champions League in the process.
The man is one of the best athletes the world has ever seen and is a lethal finisher. It’s hard to argue that Cristiano Ronaldo at least has a place in the conversation for the best soccer player ever, so he easily covers the reputation and hype criteria.
While Ronaldo did score a couple of goals that helped him become the most prolific international scorer in Europe ever, surpassing the legendary Ferenc Puskas in the process, Portugal failed to go beyond the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup.
While this is hardly Ronaldo’s personal fault, it counts at the end. Especially if you consider the fact that Portugal won the EURO 2016, and the expectations were that the side should at least have a deep run in the World Cup.
Despite that, I feel that Ronaldo has a strong case for the Ballon d’Or. He didn’t win the other major awards of the year, but the voting system of this one is different. This gives him a chance to actually win it, and the price of 2.25 is not bad at all.
Antoine Griezmann 13.00
When a player has won the World Cup and the UEFA Europa League, scoring over 30 goals for club and country in the process, it’s only natural to see him as one of the favorites for the Ballon d’Or.
And yet, I don’t think that Griezmann has a realistic chance of winning the award. The Europa League is the second most important UEFA trophy, while the triumph of France was more of a team effort. Sure, Griezmann played an important part in it, but it can’t compare to Modric, for example.
Another factor that prevents Griezmann from competing with the likes of Ronaldo and Modric is the style of Atletico Madrid. We all know that Diego Simeone prefers his teams to play defensively, and players like Griezmann suffer from such an approach.
He simply doesn’t have the same opportunities as athletes who are part of attacking outlets, such as Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Barcelona.
This is the reason why I can’t see Griezmann as the Ballon d’Or winner in 2018, despite the juicy odds of 13.00.
Mohamed Salah 21.00
I skipped a couple of players that are priced shorter than Salah, namely Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. While I respect both and certainly believe they deserve to be part of the conversation, I don’t think they are worth considering from a betting perspective.
Instead, I will talk a bit about Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian forward had a historical campaign for Liverpool, as he managed to break the record for goals scored in a 38-game season of the English Premier League.
He was well on course to challenge Ronaldo and Messi’s domination, but an unfortunate injury in the Champions League final changed his fortunes. He wasn’t able to affect Liverpool’s most important game of the season.
On top of that, his back issues spoiled his World Cup. Salah wasn’t able to start either of the first two games of his country, and he was a shadow of himself in the third one despite finding the net. As a result, Egypt’s hopes were scattered in the group stage of the competition.
I still believe that the Egyptian was objectively among the best players in the world for the year. He also won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal of the year, although this was a robbery, in my opinion.
This is why I would place a tiny bet on Salah at the price of 21.00, just in case. I don’t think he will win it, but the odds are worth a shot.
Final Betting Picks for Ballon d’Or 2018 Winner
All things considered, I would say that there are only two players worth backing: one favorite and one underdog. My main bet would be on Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese striker was probably the best player out there, and the heroics of Modric at the World Cup are the main thing that could prevent him from winning.
My other concern is related to the fact that the world might be a bit tired of seeing Ronaldo win. And yet, the price of 2.25 for the Portuguese, especially with Messi out of the picture, is simply too good to miss.
The other option I like is Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian had a fantastic season and deserves a place in the top 3, at least, in my opinion. This is why the odds of 21.00 are too tempting.
It’s exciting that we could finally see someone else win the Ballon d’Or after Messi and Ronaldo spent the last 10 years taking turns.
However, there are still a couple of months before we know what will happen. This is why I recommend you closely follow the soccer world and make sure to take in mind any potential changes.