The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious award in football, annually presented to the world’s best player.
Lionel Messi recently picked up his seventh edition of the prize, cementing his status as the greatest player of all time.
While the award sparks numerous discussions as to who should win, we thought we should create an alternative gong for the best analysis of the game over the past twelve months.
We give you the Ballon d’Or of Punditry and Co-Commentary.
10. Graeme Souness – the veteran pundit remains a sensible voice in amongst some of the nonsense. However, he has lost his position as the resident hardman since the arrival of Roy Keane, and will soon lose credibility in the studio, as fewer and fewer viewers will be able to remember seeing him play.
9. Owen Hargreaves – the understated nature of Hargreaves does not necessarily grab the attention of viewers, but his understanding of the game, and the trends in European football cannot be doubted.
8. Ian Wright – the former Arsenal marksman has been a regular on the BBC football coverage for as long as we can remember, but remains an intelligent contributor who always looks to find the positives for struggling teams and players.
7. Jermaine Jenas – sticking up for my fellow Nottingham boy, Jenas has excelled on the BBC and has even branched out into presenting aswell as punditry. He gets a lot of haters online, but I can’t see why. The guy is always eloquent, interesting, understands the game and happy to slam the strugglers and praise the stars.
6. Roy Keane – the scathing comments from the tough-talking Corkman provides viewers with great entertainment, and there can be no question that the former Man Utd captain knows how to win Premier League titles better than most. The more he appears on television, the more viewers get to see his fun side, although it is well hidden by his generally angry demeanour.
5. Micah Richards – in the way that Gary Neville lifted the level of insightful analysis when he became a pundit, Richards has lifted the levels of fun in watching football. As the youngest pundit on the circuit, he has a unique standpoint on the Premier League, with many of the players he analyses actually older than he is. Aside from the volume packed laughs and banter, Richards does have some interesting points to make, and always tries to find the positives for players, even when they are not there to be seen for most others.
4. Jamie Carragher – like him or loathe him, the former Liverpool man definitely knows his stuff when it comes to Premier League football. His statto level of information is impressive, and allows him to pick apart the improvements and declines of players and clubs from season to season, with the data to back up his comments.
3. Alan Shearer – comfortable in his position as the ‘Daddy’ of pundits in the BBC sportsroom. The former Newcastle man is as solid and consistent in the studio as he was in the penalty area, always calling it as he sees it and offering some interesting comments, albeit usually obviously highlighting the best players on the pitch without offering much more to what the viewers will have seen themselves.
2. Michael Owen – the standout man on BT Sport’s football coverage thanks to his intelligent analysis, particularly as you would expect, when it comes to forward players. A man with a reputation as a boring commentator, not from my sofa, the guy talks more sense than most on our screens.
1. Gary Neville – undoubtedly the leader setting the bar for the rest of the pack to aspire to, with his incredibly broad knowledge of the English game at all levels and the various governing bodies. His honest assessments and insights on any given match day are always worth listening to, although he loses a mark for never having the heart to condemn his old mate Ole Solskjaer as he led Man Utd into a shambles.
Comment of the Year
Special mention to Efan Ekoku, the BT co-commentator who played in the Premier League in the 1990s for Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday amongst others. He always speaks well and offers sensible analysis of the game. As the son of Nigerian immigrants, growing up in the UK in the 1960s and 70s, Ekoku probably had as tough a route into professional football as anyone, and his battle-hardened past leaves him with little patience for the modern-day antics of some players.
Ekoku gets the unofficial award of comment of the year, when speaking during a Crystal Palace game towards Wilfried Zaha, the former striker said:
“You’re not the first footballer to be kicked to the ground by a defender, you have your free kick so get up, stop moaning and get on with it.”
MAGIC! A plaque of that should be put up in every dressing room in the league.
Must do better
Needing to up their game in the punditry stakes would be Rio Ferdinand who makes his points with laddish banter and over-shouting in the manner of a bloke in a pub rather than a veteran of more than 300 Premier League games and six titles.
Paul Scholes is another that may need to do more to keep hold of his place in the studio. You know how actors talk about performers ‘popping’ on-screen? Well, Scholesy is the opposite of that expression, whatever the term may be. He may have some interesting things to say, but it is hard to hear them through the monotone, expressionless voice of the former United star.
Chris Sutton – now I am trying to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, he makes some good points occasionally, but he appears as the most obnoxious, argumentative prat on the telly when it comes to football analysis, begrudging giving any praise to players and teams for their efforts. There is a chance that this issue is isolated, or at least magnified, to when he does the post-match analysis with former ITV presenter Matt Smith, who himself is unbearably smarmy and awkward with his poorly forced ‘comedy’ and on-screen ‘banter’.
Danny Murphy – the former Liverpool man usually appears to have an agenda of being the alpha pundit on-screen, poking jibes at his less experienced colleagues. He also has an obsession with portraying himself as a hardman during his playing days, which he never was.
Time to go
The rising standard of analysis has left Jamie Redknapp found out as a basic pundit who can do nothing but praise the good players and criticise the bad ones, no insights are ever offered, but he does draw a nice line on a paused screen.
Robbie Savage – doesn’t really need an explanation this one, come on BT Sport, this has gone on long enough now.
A final note
Sky Sports, how did you let Niall Quinn off the air? We love him, the gentle Irish giant always brimming with hope and positivity for the players on the pitch and the fans in the stadium. Bring him back, bring him back, bring him back… come on everybody… no? Just me? Big Quinny – legend of the game!
Lifelong fan of the Premier League, looking on from the outside since 1999 waiting for Forest to return to the top table where they belong. Probably get promoted this season.