If you are expecting another Messi vs. Cristiano article or debate, then you should stop reading right about now…
All eyes were on Zurich yesterday night for the Fifa Ballon D’or awards, as football fanatics sat tight watching their biggest stars crowned after a whole year of sweat & pain. However, it was just about time to, once again, burst the bubble of every footballer who thrived for the best, believing that he actually had a shot at the title. The World was set for another setback as the awards reflected a completely different set of standards apart from its supposedly soul purpose; pure talent.
Passing across the top 3 nominees for best player, one cannot argue about the presence of Leonel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo. Like many, I always wonder what are the ‘real’ standards behind being nominated from the top 3 players? If it is the titles received during the year, then Messi has definitely broken all records with the amount of goals he scored in La Liga, regardless of all the counter arguments considering the Spanish league to be poor with ‘amateur’ defenders. Nevertheless, on the club side Leo only won the Spanish Cup as Barca lost the League & Champions League titles. There was nothing to be won with Argentina after their early Copa America Quarter Final knock out to Uruguay on home soil in 2011, yet they are currently leading the 2014 South America World Cup Qualifications. On the other hand, Cristiano won the League title with Madrid & got knocked out of the Euro’s in the Semi-finals on Penalties to the winners Spain. It’s clear that the presence of these two players was because they ARE outstanding footballers and no other player could match their skill, influence & more importantly, their consistency.
The fact that Messi edged Cristiano and won it again is not what I want to highlight, as the choice of Andres Iniesta for the third nominee is what I find shocking! I do not want to be pulled into a Pro-Pirlo argument, stating that he deserved this spot for being the main pillar in guiding Juventus to their first Serie A title since 2003, without losing a single match throughout the season, managing the highest passing accuracy percentage in all top flight leagues of Europe (Yes, surpassing Xavi). Unlike Iniesta who plays alongside a star packed Spanish team, Pirlo single handedly carried a very moderate Italian side all the way to the Euro’s Final. What about Iker Casillas who was one of the main reasons behind the Euro triumph (conceding only one goal in the tournament) and the League title, as there is definitely no words to describe Iker’s role in any victory Madrid earns. I do not doubt Iniesta’s talent, yet he has had far more successful years in the past in terms of honors & performances. Andres definitely assisted Spain in the Euro achievement through his magical touches & phenomenal set of skills, yet in terms of stats he did not score a single goal and provided only one assist in 6 games. Naming Iniesta the best player of the tournament was enough recognition for his season and the door should’ve definitely been left open to promote another talent that has far less spotlight from the media.
The best player of the year asides, all the remaining awards were utterly bogus. If the best 11 players on the globe for the past year are; Casillas, Alves, Pique, Ramos, Marcelo, Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Falcao and Cristiano, then I must have been watching a completely different sport all year long! I have tried applying all the theories I’ve discussed above to this selection, yet failed to any sort of logic apart from Fifa mixing up the World’s best players with La Liga’s top XI! How can it be possible to have all eleven players from the Spanish League provided that the Champions League, regarded by many as the top footballing competition on the globe, was won by England’s Chelsea & Germany’s Bayern Munich finishing runner ups?! If the choice was based on Spain’s European triumph, then we have 6 Spanish players (the choice of Pique & Alonso remain absurd to me!) + the 2 phenomenons Messi & Cristiano, leaving us with 3 more spots. Falcao is considered to be one of the top, if not the best, striker currently in the market and so I understand & admire his admission. But to include Marcelo & Dani Alves is pure insanity. Alves won no major tournaments with Barca apart from the Copa Del Rey, and with Brazil hosting the upcoming World Cup they have both not played a single official match with the Selecao for the entire year! I actually find it a waste of both time & effort to discuss or bring up names of Full Backs who would blindly take these two spots. The thought of going back to Barcelona & Real Madrid for two full backs reflects the ‘chash’ oriented choices that Fifa take.
The ‘Cherry on top’ that took away any remaining drop of credibility from this ceremony was the Coach of the year award. One could understand how Del Bosque won it & another could set a rather weak argument for Mourinho, who didn’t even show up to the gala, for coming up second, but the fact that Guardiola was even nominated is shocking. Either this award was for “Football Manager 2012” on PC, or that Pep has been secretly coaching a team that we all know nothing about since quitting Barca last Summer. Once again talented obscure managers like Jürgen Klopp, Antonio Conte & Diego Simeone, to name a few, were denied a chance to be accredited for their outstanding achievements.
One would like to think of the Fifa Ballon D’Or as the Oscars of football, where although everyone know that Titanic or Lord of the Rings are going home with the trophy, there’s still honor and reward for every single nominee. Before the merge, the Ballon D’Or has decorated players like Pavel Nedved, Michael Owen & Andriy Shevchenko, names that do not match the ‘criteria’ of the Fifa awards. Even then, the list of sublime talents who live uncrowned in football for commercial reasons remains long. The golden question is; will we ever have a true ceremony that sincerely recognizes football talents across the globe?
I hope so…but until then…this award does not represent the sport I live for.