A bizarre UEFA poll has voted League One’s Will Grigg as the 25th best player in Europe alongside some of the biggest names in world football.
Northern Irishman Grigg makes a surprise appearance on the shortlist for the 2015/16 Uefa Best Player in Europe Award despite plying his trade in the English third tier and failing to make an appearance at Euro 2016.
The poll, decided by journalists from Uefa’s 55 member associations, ensured the Wigan Athletic man tied-25th alongside Juventus pair Giorgio Chiellini and £100m-rated Paul Pogba, Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The frontman shot to fame in the summer as the subject of chant Will Grigg’s on Fire following a 25-goal season for The Latics, but his appearance on the shortlist is as disappointing as it is mystifying.
The jury supposedly comprises renowned sports journalists representing each of UEFA’s 55 national associations, who provide a list of their three best-ranked players from one to three.
That Grigg could appear on the 37-man list, tied with two key members of the European Championship finalists, is a timely reminder that all is not well within football governance despite a successful tournament in France. On the outside it is no doubt deemed justifiable banter by Europe’s scoffing media, but I doubt Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – last season’s top scorer in the Bundesliga – will be laughing after finishing a place behind the top marksman in League One.
There is big money placed on these awards at the bookies. It should be expected that the judges perform the task that has been asked of them rather than jumping onboard popular Internet memes and pop culture. According to UEFA, players are judged by their performances in all competitions, domestic and international, and at club and national team levels throughout the season.
“[The award] recognises the best player, irrespective of his nationality, playing for a football club within the territory of a UEFA member association during the previous season.”
– UEFA on the Best Player in Europe Award
In recent years UEFA have been hoping to revive the European Footballer of the Year Award, which was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year Award in 2010 to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or. The “Golden Ball” has also created it’s fair share of nonsense in recent years, belittling the award given to the world’s best male player by including relative unknown Massimo Luongo on the shortlist for 2015. Luongo later admitted he thought it was a joke. Unfortunately it may well have been exactly that.
Grigg’s inclusion seems to suggest that UEFA’s efforts to match the notoriety of FIFA’s awards have not been successful, as they resort to shock PR tactics to manufacture interest in the rankings. On this occasion Grigg seems to have been the lucky beneficiary. His cult status has just risen once again.
Maybe in 2016/17 he’ll get a game for Northern Ireland.