Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ballon D'Or - time for a new winner?

Come January, two things are certain. You will have a large credit card bill to pay for Christmas gifts and Lionel Messi will be crowned the World's best player. Whilst the credit card bill will almost certainly drop through the door, there is a real chance that Messi could be usurped as the best player on the planet this coming year.

That is not of course to suggest that anyone is actually better than him given that Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Zidane have all retired but the vote takes many things in to account, most importantly your achievements in that year.

Messi of course has still been wonderfully productive with 35 goals in 31 games this year meaning there should be little doubt as to the supremacy of his reign. There is however a feeling that the crown may have slipped slightly this season and certainly whilst Barcelona are still the champions of Spain, they were rendered obsolete in the Champions League by Bayern Munchen.

Whilst Messi's play still astounds, he looks a more tired and altogether human player than the one that has destroyed teams at will for the past five seasons. Injuries have started to niggle and many are now looking at this World Cup as his defining moment if he wishes to replace Maradona and Pele as the greatest player of all time.

It is of course all relative and his numbers still astound. This year however it does look a more open contest with other candidates coming in to the frame.

To be awarded the prize, a couple of criteria usually need to be met, you should be an attacking player - since 1996 only won defender has won, Fabio Cannavaro - therefore ruling Thiago Silva and the imperious Philip Lahm out of the running.

You should also generally play for a team that has won something, since Ronaldinho in 2004, no player has won the award when his team has failed to win silverware. This presumably should then should rule out Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

However, Ronaldo has scored 46 goals in 42 games so far this calendar year meaning his own absurd statistics carry on unchecked. Whilst less aesthetically pleasing - Sepp Blatter does prefer his hair however - than Messi he is no less effective and will surely be remembered as one of the greats of the game.

Whilst Bale was tremendous for Spurs last season, the fact that his performances were not for an elite team and that the beginning to his Madrid career has been iffy will preclude his being genuinely in the running this time.

Whilst there are superb players such as Iniesta and Pirlo who could have been worthy winners previously in a 'non Messi era', the competition would appear to be coming from two other fine attacking midfielders from Bayern, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Of the two, Ribery appears to have the most momentum and support.

Bayern's all conquering season was the defining moment of these two players who's individual brilliance has often been intertwined with both personal and footballing disappointment. Both have been sublime this year for Bayern and either is good enough to receive the award even if they remain a step down from Messi or Ronaldo in terms of pure ability.

There are of course other worthy mentions such as Ibrahimovic and Robin Van Persie although both would find it hard to argue a case of matching these other names for sheer excellence and achievements this year.

Personally I would like to see either Philip Lahm or Ronaldo receive the award as both would be worthy recipients and it would at least break from the Sebastien Vettel like monotony of Messi winning. It may however be that it is Franck Ribery who could break the Messi stranglehold, either that or the diminutive Argentine could coast to an unprecedented fifth consecutive award - No Nonsense.