For the last decade, Cristiano Ronaldo making the fan-voted UEFA Team of the Year has not been controversial. It has been a formality.
This year, however, it looks like the Juventus superstar might have received a little help from European soccer’s governing body to make its top 11 for an unprecedented 14th year.
Did UEFA change its rules just to help Cristiano Ronaldo?
The 2019 UEFA Team of the Year was announced Wednesday, and there was Ronaldo yet again, alongside fellow staple Lionel Messi and, naturally, five players from Liverpool.
However, the team curiously used a 4-2-4 formation (four defenders, two midfielders, four forwards) that is rarely seen in today’s game. It was a notable change from last year’s team, which was a much more conventional 4-3-3 formation.
3️⃣ from the Netherlands 🇳🇱
5️⃣ from Liverpool 🔴
7️⃣ Newcomers 🆕
1️⃣1️⃣ stars 🌟
Your 2019 UEFA #TeamOfTheYear!
— UEFA (@UEFA) January 15, 2020
Mike Keegan of the Daily Mail reports that change was made by UEFA with one specific goal in mind: prevent Ronaldo from missing the team for the first time since 2006.
Ronaldo reportedly came in fourth in voting among forwards, so UEFA decided to roll ahead with four forwards rather than just the trio of Messi, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
The change was at the expense of the No. 3 midfielder, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, and reportedly required some last-minute maneuvering to work Ronaldo into a team initially set to be announced last week.
That account was backed up by Tariq Panja of the New York Times, who also reported that UEFA chose to not publish voter data, another departure from last year.
So basically, UEFA changed its formation to include four forwards in a year in which Ronaldo was No. 4 and did all it could to not reveal he was No. 4.
From the Daily Mail:
A source said: “This is really not good. It is effectively vote rigging. Such is Ronaldo's popularity at a senior level within the organisation, alarm bells sounded when he did not make the cut and, as a result, the formation was changed. It makes you wonder what else they get up to.”
Of course, it’s quite likely that Ronaldo was easily among the top 11 vote-getters, though you’d imagine that’s easier to achieve as a goal-scoring forward.
A UEFA spokesperson reportedly defended the move by suggesting it was thanks to Portugal’s win in the inaugural Nations League final, and to “reflect the votes of the fans in parallel with the players' achievements in UEFA competitions.”
It might also be worth noting that Juventus president Andrea Agnelli is one of two club representatives on UEFA’s executive committee, the other being Paris Saint-Germain’s Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
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