In the postgame rush after Bayern Munich’s 5-2 victory over Benfica, defender Benjamin Pavard was put in an uncomfortable position.
No, not the back of a Volkswagen, but Pavard was quizzed by the French media on whether or not his club teammate, Robert Lewandowski, or his countryman, Karim Benzema, deserved to win the Ballon d’ Or.
Here is the exchange as captured by Twitter account @iMiaSanMia:
Do you think Lewandowski should win the Ballon d’Or?
Pavard: “Oh, bizarre question”
Q: Benzema is your teammate too..
Pavard: “Karim and Robert are world class strikers, but I’m not the one who decides. Robert deserved it last year, we’ll see.”
Now...for most rational people, the choice would be clear: Lewandowski. However, Pavard is not really in a spot to alienate anyone with his response and here’s why:
- Pavard had no idea that question was coming: Pavard was unprepared for that question. Maybe that’s his fault, but really, why would he think that would be a focal point after the match? The right-back was clearly ready to talk about the match and not some award that is really not even on his radar.
- Pavard in under fire: The defender has been okay this season, but has drawn the ire of fans for both club and country for some noticeable gaffes. Surely, he is trying to keep a low profile and also seeking to just build off what was a relatively positive performance for him against Benfica. He wanted to produce a bland response and not ignite the fanbases for either Bayern Munich or France.
- Pavard’s feud with Paul Pogba has made him less likely to offer up any controversial opinions on his teammates: Pavard and Pogba had a widely-reported disagreement on the pitch that has carried off the field and into the locker room. In trying to repair his reputation, Pavard is just not in a position to alienate anyone.
- Pavard already stuck his foot in his mouth: For better or worse, Pavard attempted to give his side of the story regarding his feud with Pogba and his overall up-and-down play this season. Predictably, it was not well-received by fans, with some even hammering him harder. Essentially, Pavard double-down with a bad hand. The lesson learned from that? Sometimes it is better to say little to nothing rather than actually say how you feel.
Clearly, beIN Sports — who asked the original question — knew what it was doing and knew Pavard was going to cause a reaction with whatever he said. Truly, he was placed in a media trap and he failed to find the best way to navigate through it, though he did not outright fail. He offered nothing, which for him, was a persona win.
Sure, some might point to Kingsley Coman’s response as the proper way to answer the question, but Coman — assuredly — is in a different spot for both club and country. Coman is a highly-coveted player, who could transfer next summer. The 25-year-old also maintains solid relationships with players on the rosters of both Bayern Munich and France. Anyway, here is how Coman responded (per @iMiaSanMia):
Yes, absolutely. Especially considering last season and what he’s done, it’s him that has to win the Ballon d’Or.
So...maybe cut Pavard some slack. The question was loaded and his response was only going to work if he gave an eloquent speech saying something without saying anything at all. At least he didn’t waste anyone’s time, he just answered it in as quick and vanilla a way as possible to help protect his reputation.
We can’t fault him for that.