Well, this is a big one. Joey Barton’s website contains an interesting post. Moreover, it’s so interesting I’m sitting here clacking keys on it. And I am going to provide a link to it. Here it is.

In truth, the post was written by the Sunday Times’ writer Jonathan Northcroft. It’s an interesting take on the popularity contest that is now the FIFA Ballon D’Or, which used to among Europe’s most prestigious awards (even though Michael Owen won it in 2001), and is now kind of a glossy shit show. Northcroft points out some of the missing names on the list:

The winner will be one of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Iker Casillas, Anders Iniesta, Xavi or Andrea Pirlo and who could argue with their inclusion among the 23? But why is Mario Balotelli on it? For Italy at the Euros, Antonio Cassano and Claudio Marchisio were more consistent. For Manchester City, David Silva and Vincent Kompany were better. But none of these made the list.

Did Wayne Rooney really have a good enough 2012 to merit inclusion? The reasoning given on his FIFA pen-pic is weak: “with 14 goals between February and May 2012, Wayne Rooney was indispensible for Manchester United.” Why is Gerard Pique there? Good player, but a mediocre year. Ah, wait, he might bring Shakira to that gala night in Zurich.

From there however, Northcroft pivots to a bizarre assessment of the worthlessness of player ratings (they are worthless), but then offers this defense:

Well, here’s how it works. You’re reporting on a match. You have 900 words to write about the game, which has to be completed and sent to your editor – during the match itself. The physical act of just typing 900 words takes (assuming an average speed of 40 words per minute) more than 20 minutes. You also have to make notes, watch replays on your monitor in the press box, take calls from your editor and send your copy by email. Probably half of the 105 minutes available (the game plus half-time) is spend on simply the mechanics of reporting.

So you have about 50 minutes to actually watch the game. In an average match only about two-thirds are spent with the ball ‘in play’. Basically, the reporter is only fully focused on watching play for about 30 minutes per match. As Americans say, do the math: even if you focused your eyes solely on each player in turn (surely the only way to grade a performance – you need to see everything, off the ball movement etc as well as what happens when the ball is at a player’s feet) you’d have a little more than one minute per player through which to arrive at a grading. But of course you can’t even do that – you’re having to watch the general flow of play for the purposes of your main responsibility, your match report.

Um? As someone who’s been writing post-match recaps for the last year and a half in the Champions League, I really don’t think this is the case. First, there is a plethora of sites offering verifiable, objective indications of a player’s activity in a match. This shouldn’t be the basis of a rating by any stretch, but they can anchor in empirical fact what are always going to be subjective impressions of a football match.

But the main point is: really? There are people who take match ratings seriously? And what editor is calling in the middle of a match you’re supposed to be writing about?