FIFA have announced their nominees for the prestigious Ballon d’Or, and it is no shock to anyone that the three men who made the final cut are Franck Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The Ballon d’Or is an unusual award, as it does not follow the football calendar (like most other awards) but rather the actual calendar year. The problem however is that the second half of the year doesn’t seem to gain any consideration when the winner is being decided. This has thrown up some right stinkers in the past, such as Fabio Cannavaro, who only won the award because Italy won the World Cup.
You would think that going from twenty three players to three would be a difficult task, quite the opposite, making you wonder why FIFA go through the farce of naming twenty three players when it is clear which three they are going to make finalists in the first place.
In a list of twenty three there are always going to be players who you look at and think ‘how the hell did they make the list?’ I’m thinking of guys like Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure and Xavi (among others); who really look out of place on a list of the year’s best players.
This year’s list continues the blatant biasness that FIFA (and UEFA) have shrouded themselves with in regards to La Liga. This is the first year in 4 years where a player playing outside of La Liga has actually made it into the final shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, and don’t get me started on the ridiculous team of the year they put out last year (Marcelo the best left back in the world? Fuck off).
Anyway on to the real nominees:
The greatest player of his generation has won an incredible four Ballon d’Or’s in a row; however he hasn’t actually deserved to win four in a row. For instance Wesley Sneijder should have won the award in 2010, a year where he was pivotal to Inter winning the Champions League and Holland making the World Cup final, yet somehow he didn’t even make the top three (go figure). You could also sit and argue that either Iniesta or Xavi were more deserving of some of the awards as well, although it is hard to distinguish between the three, and Messi gets the headlines. It sounds like I’m being harsh on Messi, but I don’t mean to be, he is a remarkable talent; however when people call a player who has never consistently performed at international level the greatest player ever, you become harsh.
Messi has made 46 appearances for his club and country this calendar year, and has scored a remarkable 45 goals (39 Barca & 6 Argentina). I would talk about assists but it is incredibly hard to garner respectable and accurate statistics, although from what I have seen he is below both Ribery and Ronaldo in this category. Messi was also an integral part of the La Liga winning Barcelona side which romped to the title with relative ease.
What can’t be ignored with Messi though is the lack of games that he has actually participated in. 46 appearances for club and country are figures of a player who has not played enough football to truly be considered for this position. You also have to wonder if Messi was really needed in the Barcelona team that won the league, because they would probably have won it anyway, although granted not as easily. Messi’s case is also hurt by his poor performances when crunch time struck in the Champions League and he was left wanting.
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride (except that one time before the divorce). Ronaldo would be considered the greatest player of his generation if it weren’t for one little Argentinian who has outperformed him consistently the past few years. Ronaldo previously won the Ballon d’Or five years ago after an excellent season with Manchester United, but despite improving vastly as a player he hasn’t had a sniff at one since (he must hate Messi).
Ronaldo has notched up an incredible 68 goals in just 57 appearances (58 Real & 10 Portugal), that’s a 1.18 goal per game average. Sit and think about that for a moment, it has been an incredible year for Ronaldo. Similar to Messi it is hard to judge assists because statistics for a calendar year aren’t very reliable, but the general consensus is that he has more than Messi but less than Ribery. Ronaldo single handedly dragged a very average Portugal team to the World Cup at the expense of Sweden, with two incredible performances where he took the game by the scruff of the neck and showed what a quality player he is. On top of that Ronaldo is the one shining light in what is (by Real standards) an average Real Madrid side, yes there are good players there but without Ronaldo this team wouldn’t come close to challenging Barca or even Atletico.
Ronaldo however has two major negatives against him; firstly he was part of a team that won absolutely nothing of note last season, and didn’t even really come close to doing so either, and secondly that Cristiano Ronaldo is a total arse. Even Ronaldo’s biggest fans can’t deny that the guy doesn’t do much for himself in the likability category. Smug, arrogant and petulant, the total opposite of Leo Messi.
For years Franck Ribery has threatened to be a world class player, and it is not until recently that he actually managed to accomplish that. This is Ribery’s first nomination for the Ballon d’Or and the first Bundesliga player to be nominated since Oliver Kahn in 2002.
There is no point on going through Ribery’s individual statistics because they are nowhere near as good as either Messi or Ronaldo (although as mentioned he is the top assister of the three). The best way to measure Ribery is what he has accomplished with Bayern Munich. Bayern won the Bundesliga in imperious fashion, at no point looking like a team that wasn’t going to win the league. Bayern also deservedly won the Champions League against bitter German rivals Borussia Dortmund and added onto that was the German cup to complete a remarkable treble.
The one thing that I would say about Ribery that makes me think that he shouldn’t even be on this list, is that he isn’t even the best player at Bayern, never mind the world. Ribery just happens to play in what is by far the most stacked team in the world, and it isn’t that he is outstanding but rather the team is outstanding. Players like Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer or Thomas Muller would all be just as good nominations but don’t play as glamorous a role as Ribery so therefore don’t get the nod (especially in the case of Neuer and Lahm).
Who should the winner be?
I think it is quite an easy decision really, one player this calendar year has been head and shoulders above the rest, and that man is Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has from beginning to end had a special season, and if anyone doubted that he deserved to win the award this year they weren’t doubting after he dragged Portugal through to the World Cup (I thought he should have won it prior to this anyway but this confirmed it). Ronaldo should be picking up his second award for being the World’s Best Player, and it will be well deserved.
As far as the other two are concerned; Messi should come second although I doubt he will, because many people will see Ribery as the answer because of the season Bayern have had.
What do you think of the Ballon d’Or, and the nominations? Do you think Ronaldo deserves to win it? Leave a comment, and don’t forget you can find all of the latest bm23sportsreviews updates at Facebook and Twitter.