Awards are stupid, but we need awards. In the United States, awards are such an important part of sports culture that we’ve now reached the point where we argue about semantics. With the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award given out in all major sports, there is no truly agreed-upon definition. Does it go to a major player? Most outstanding? The best? Of course, it says “valuable” in the name, but what is value? Are we talking value on the court? In the locker room? As for the franchise’s overall free-market valuation?
Like I said, it’s dumb, but it’s important. The award voting serves as a historical record. Look at the top 10 in MVP voting in any sports season and you’ll get a better idea of who the most important players were that year. The order of those players usually doesn’t make a ton of sense, but the group of players usually plays the exact roles of the main characters. The same goes for the All-NBA teams and the NFL’s All-Pro teams.
In soccer, we’ve got the Ballon d’Or, yes. But it is riddled with inconsistencies and the voting population is not very sensitive. So many votes come down to a single game or two; People are swayed by the rivalry, or once they see a player shine. Apart from the Ballon d’Or, most leagues have their own Player of the Year (POTY) awards, but the processes are opaque and, as in the Premier League, there is no single unanimously recognized POTY award. In fact, there is more than one: Premier League POTY, Professional Football Association (PFA) Players’ POTY, Football Writers’ Association (FWA) POTY, PFA Fans’ POTY.
Plus, all these things tend to be offensive and they don’t have much of a place in the culture of the sport. Did you know that Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo have the same number of Spanish LaLiga Player of the Year awards? Didn’t think so. Each of them has one; Lionel Messi is nine.
– O’Hanlon: Why trades don’t happen in soccer
However, there is a group of 14 European sports magazines — two from each of Germany and the Netherlands, plus one each from England, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, and Italy — a steady process of producing an American-style sports historical record.
Each month, European Sports Media (ESM) members vote for the best XI from across the continent and after each season, they add up the number of appearances in the Team of the Month to determine the Team of the Year. This website provides ESM data going back to the 1995-96 season. So, what does that tell us?