In 2010, France Football’s Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award merged to create one trophy, the ultimate trophy for the individual to win within a collective game. The first to emerge victorious was Lionel Messi in 2010 leaving the world perplexed. Was he the most talented player? Certainly, but did he deserve to win then award in a year Wesley Sneijder won the treble with Inter and led Netherlands to the final of the World Cup? Absolutely not.
According to Michel Platini, a Spaniard ought to have triumphed as they had won the World Cup. One can understand his reasoning but while Andres Iniesta dazzled and Xavi Hernandez pulled the strings, there was no one player who did more for his teams than Sneijder and yet the playmaker did not even make the final three-man shortlist.
For many, the award lost all meaning when Diego Milito, the Argentine who scored the winning goal in the Champions League final, Coppa Italia final and Serie A match to ensure Inter’s treble wasn’t even included in the 23-man short list. Newspapers and blogs dubbed the decision comical, a farce and immediately, the trophy lost its prestige.
“The Ballon d'Or is no longer for the best player. It's all about politics,” remarked Franck Ribery. The Frenchman’s continued comments surrounding the trophy suggest he’s yet to overcome the bitterness at not winning the coveted prize last season but did he deserve it? Perhaps, simply because his team won the treble in a year his rivals accomplished less with their respective sides.
However, while politics may have played a part in the voting process, Ribery must also recognise that the beauty of his Bayern Munich side lied in its collective power. There was no individual who stood out simply because it was the combination of the players’ skills and their willingness to sacrifice that led to such triumph. It was Manuel Neuer’s saves, Philipp Lahm’s leadership and Arjen Robben’s goals than ensured the team’s progression in Europe, not to mention his man of the match performance in the final.
Ronaldo went on to win the prize in 2014 and for him, it meant the world. Each year he betters his performances in order to win everything and yet he always seems to be the player others feel isn’t deserving. Rarely does Messi get attacked but when Ronaldo is the favourite then Neuer feels justified to poke fun at underwear commercials and ‘living the red carpet lifestyle’.
This season, the three players that will most likely shortlisted to win the trophy are Ronaldo, Messi and Manuel Neuer. Messi may have helped his side to the World Cup final but Neuer won the World Cup and Ronaldo lifted the Champions League, the long awaited Decima.
There is no doubting Neuer’s skills and the impact he had on Germany in the World Cup, whether it be by making outstanding saves or playing with his feet. However, Casillas too managed extraordinary performances for Spain in 2010 – in fact it was his one-on-one save against Robben in the final than ensured victory – whilst we can never forget the penalty save on Oscar Cardozo.
Unfortunately for the Bayern Munich goalkeeper, Ronaldo still did more this year. He won the Golden Shoe, was top scorer in both the League and the Champions League and recently broke a record when he became the first player to score against every team he has played against in Spain's top flight.
Combined with his defensive contributions due to his aerial ability and the manner in which he has improved his overall attacking play, helping to create space for his teammates as well as providing assists, Ronaldo is the player who makes an impact in every single game he plays. How can he not win the award?