Maldini slams Ballon d’Or

Milan, October 3

AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini joined a chorus of ex-players in slamming Ballon d’Or chiefs after former Italy teammate Gianluigi Buffon was left off a long list of potential winners of FIFA’s prestigious trophy.

Buffon, considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers, modestly admitted his surprise on Friday by saying he believed he felt himself to be “among the top five” goalkeepers in the world. But Maldini said Buffon’s absence from the 59-man long-list, which was leaked on Friday and includes seven players each from Barcelona and Real Madrid, means the prize has lost credibility.

“The trophy loses value when it just comes down to pleasing clubs and federations,” the retired Milan great told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday. Maldini said players who did not deserve to be nominated included Claudio Bravo (Barcelona) and David Ospina (Arsenal).

“Come on, how is this possible? It’s absurd. There are players there just because of their name,” he added. “Gigi deserves to be on the list for what he has achieved and how he has achieved it. At nearly 38 years old, he is still one of the three best goalkeepers in the world. Ok, I accept Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) and (Thibaut) Courtois (Chelsea), but Bravo and Ospina?”

The Ballon d’Or long-list will be cut to 23 names in December before the awards ceremony is held in January 2016. The last goalkeeper to win the award was Russia’s Lev Yashin, although Buffon was not considered a potential winner impact of his absence from list has reverberated around Italian football.

When the news emerged, Gazzetta’s front page included a picture of Buffon with the headline ‘Buffonata’, which roughly translates to ‘farce’ or ‘blunder’.