I’m going to address two misconceptions about the Ballon D’or, one is its nomination process and the second is criteria of voting.
Misconception 1: Nomination process
The nomination process:
France Football (FF) gives 150+ journalists from all around the world a vote. Each country has 1 journalist.
The journalist then gets a list (30 nominated players) and has to rank them, with the number 1 getting more points then the number 2 (for instance, if you vote Messi as number 1 he gets 5 points and if you vote Lewandowski as number 2 he gets 4 points, etc).
Then, all the points are accumulated and the player with most points is the winner of the Ballon D’or, player with second most points second place etc.
So a journalist doesn’t only choose who they think should win BdO, but also who should be number 2 etc. This is important because it splits the vote, also known as ranked-choice voting.
Then, all the points are added up and the player with the most points wins the BdO, player with second most points second place, etc.
Thus, the organization that holds the Ballon D’or, France Football (FF), does not choose the winner. Journalists all around the world do based on ranked voting. This means that France Football does not ”rob” players, it’s just that the journalists choose different than what you expected.
Misconception 2: Selection criteria
The journalists who vote do not have an obligatory way of selecting who they see as number 1, number 2 etc. It’s true that there are some criteria circling around, but they are not enforced. This means that the journalist can choose to form their own opinion based on what they find important.
Now, most journalists around the world do not have the time to go watch every La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, etc other national titles games of Europe. Especially if you are a journalist outside of Europe, you also have to concentrate on the football inside your own country (for instance the Brazilian journalist will probably also spend time on the Brazilian league and Copa Libertadores).
What are the competitions most journalists will be more likely to watch?
Euro’s / Copa America / AFCON / AFC Asian Cup
Champions League etc
In other words, it’s much more likely that journalists will capture your performance on the international stage and then form their opinion based on that. So, international performance is much more important for winning BdO than is national league performance.
This is why Messi had the most G+A in 2018 and won La Liga 17/18 and 18/19 with 17 points above Ballon D’or winner Modric but still only ended up 5th place in the BdO ranking. Modric that year had won the Champions League and had an amazing World Cup performance. Journalists ranked that higher than Messi having most G+A and winning La Liga double.