x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Footballers vote on reputation rather than on form

A player's name and reputation appears as important as their form when it comes to nominations for awards.

John Terry appears to be more popular with foreign players than his own English counterparts.
John Terry appears to be more popular with foreign players than his own English counterparts.

Over the past year England's five finest footballers were John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney. At least according to the global electorate of professionals who voted the quintet on to a 55-man shortlist for the Fifa FIFPro World XI.

Fifty thousand footballers were polled across the 43 national players' unions that comprise the Federation Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels.

By last week's announcement of a shortlist that provides the basis for Fifa's Ballon d'Or some 45 per cent of them had chosen their men.

The Spanish Primera Liga outdid the Premier League with 22 nominees to the English competition's 17 current employees and one retired goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar. There was just one man shortlisted from outside the European leagues - Neymar. The common denominator of the global poll was a tendency to favour reputation over performance.

Kaka was once utterly deserving of the acclaim, but injuries have left him sadly diminished. Can he really be considered one of the game's 55 most effective players after a year in which he has started just 17 league games and completed four?

Rooney excepted, fame also seems to precede effectiveness for the English nominees. Ferdinand is beset with back problems that have even seen Sir Alex Ferguson talk about how the defender has "obviously lost the yard of pace he had five years ago". Over the past three seasons, Ferdinand has missed as many Manchester United fixtures as he has appeared in.

At Chelsea the quality Cole delivered last season has disappeared with the change of defensive tactics introduced by Andre Villas-Boas. Once the Premier League's most athletic left-back, Cole now loses contests of endurance and pace with opponents regularly.

Lampard began the year returning from groin surgery and ends it fighting with a manager who has stripped him of an automatic starting berth.

He remains an outstanding midfielder, but few would label him England's best. Terry's decline as a domineering centre back has become all the more obvious with Villas-Boas insisting that he play in a system that exposes his stark loss of pace.

Chelsea's captain has been on every FIFPro shortlist since the award's 2005 inception, making the World XI each year until 2009. Such success is all the more remarkable for the Terry's complete absence from the English PFA's Premier League Team of the Year since 2006.

Best in the world, but not his home league? Players' player votes may be better when they are local.