Lionel Messi ranks 24th in alternative Player of the Year rankings as debate rages on

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Lionel Messi may have scooped a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or recently, but he has been snubbed as Player of the Year by CIES Football Observatory for 2021. In fact, the Argentine could only manage 24th place as Real Madrid’s David Alaba was crowned the winner of the alternative award.

Football analysts at CIES revealed the shock result having gone to great lengths to quantify what constitutes the best footballer in the world, as the hotly-debated issue rages on.

While the winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or is determined by voting from coaches, players and journalists, and judged according to performance and behaviour on and off the pitch, the accolade awarded by CIES sees an altogether different approach.

Data scientists at the Swiss observatory essentially crunch the numbers to consider who makes the greatest contribution to their team.

The brainiacs amalgamate the playing time of footballers and the sporting level of the teams for which they played, or the competitions they participated in, to create their ranking criteria.

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In layman’s terms, the CIES Player of the Year is awarded to a footballer who is somewhat of an unsung hero for their team.

The winner is often a player who consistently puts in performances of the highest level and is a key component of their side, without hogging all the headlines.

In Alaba, this year’s winner certainly fits the billing.

The versatile Austrian claimed his tenth Bundesliga title with former club Bayern Munich – a 27th trophy in his 11-year stint in Bavaria – before seeking a new challenge by signing with Real Madrid this summer.

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Alaba was a mainstay in the Bayern team that made it to the Champions League quarter-finals, missing only a combined three matches across the league and in Europe.

The 29-year-old edged Manchester City’s Ruben Dias for the honour, with Inter Milan’s Slovenian centre-back Milan Skriniar completing this year’s podium placings.

Alaba’s new Real Madrid teammate Casemiro claimed fourth in the standings while a former colleague at Bayern, Joshua Kimmich, finished in fifth.

After Dias, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes was the next highest placing Premier League player down in 11th as Real Madrid and Inter Milan accounted for six of the top 10 rankings.

Alaba becomes the latest name to scoop the award after Liverpool pairing Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk were crowned winners in 2020 and 2019 respectively, following the success of Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic back in 2018.

While Messi may well have missed out on adding to his extensive trophy haul, the Paris Saint-Germain forward will no doubt be comforted by his recent Ballon d’Or exploits.

“I’m really proud to win the France Football Ballon d’Or once again,” said Messi following his recent coronation.

“It’s incredible to win it for the seventh time. I would like to thank my family, my friends and all the people who follow me and always support me, because without them I couldn’t have done it.”

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