Re: 2012-2013 Discussion Thread for La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, etc
The Ballon D'Or is a done by a vote from all the coaches, captains and a football journalist from every FIFA representative country, so it's essentially a popularity contest rather than an award based on merit. The FIFA Player of the Year used to be done by vote of from the coaches and captains of national teams, and the old Ballon D'Or was selected by a panel of journalists, the the FIFA Ballon D'Or is essentially a merger of both concepts.
So there really isn't any set criteria for the award aside from being good at football and being popular. The way I interpret the award is that it's basically whoever the best player in the World at the time gets the award. I actually remember I looked at all the voting from 2010, and it was interesting the Sneijder, who many thought actually performed the best in 2010, pretty much only got votes from Europe. It were as though his exploits in the UCL were only really noticed in Europe. Pretty much every African Country had Messi, Ronaldo and Eto'o as their votes too. So name value seemed to resonate much more than actual performance through the year.