The Ballon d’or question

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January 17th, 2013 Nitin Sreedhar

Lionel Andres Messi wrote yet another page in footballing history on January 7 as he won an unprecedented fourth-consecutive Ballon d’Or award at a gala ceremony in Zurich. The polka-dotted Messi humbly accepted the prestigious award, thanking a long list of well-wishers who voted for him. The diminutive Argentinean — via a Catalan Tv channel — later thanked Barcelona Coach Tito Vilanova and teammate Eric Abidal (both of them had taken ill). He mentioned how their absence had taken away a part of Barcelona and it was encouraging to see that both of them were on the road to recovery.

With 41.6% of the votes, Barcelona’s crown jewel was the clear winner. He pipped his Real Madrid archrival Cristiano Ronaldo (23.68%) and teammate Andres Iniesta (10.91%) to the award.

But from the viewpoint of an ardent soccer follower it would be fair and just to say that perhaps Messi shouldn’t have been awarded the award this time out. It is true that in the past year, Messi has broken several records. In winning the Ballon d’Or for the fourth time he broke Michel Platini’s record itself. He also broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing world record for the most goals scored in a calendar year, which also saw him surpass the legendary Pele. He ended 2012 at an astonishing 91 goals. Despite his extraordinary goal-scoring prowess, it is logical to add that Messi did not have the league or cup success which would have complimented his marvellous feats and maybe made him a worthy winner. Barcelona, with Messi, failed to defend their La Liga crown and could not retain the coveted UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid toppled them from the helm at the La Liga, and one of the main catalysts behind Madrid’s record-breaking performance last season was Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portugal skipper was in blistering form last season. He amassed an astounding 60 goals in 55 appearances in all competitions. 46 of them came in the league itself. In doing so, he was also awarded the Trofeo Alfredo Stefano — the best La Liga player of the season. Ronaldo’s goal-scoring exploits helped Madrid record 100 points in one season; 121 goals scored and a massive goal difference of +89.

Barcelona did keep the pressure on Madrid last season, but Messi — the heart of the team — failed to titivate his teams vibrant play and Tiki-taka style of play. Ronaldo on the other hand inspired Real to victories, putting in match-winning performances.

But awarding Messi his 4th Ballon d’Or already — when he has a whole glittering career ahead of me — looked more like a formality.

And one should spare a thought for Andres Iniesta. The Spanish playmaker has been virtually overshadowed by his Argentinean teammate at Barcelona. But it was Iniesta’s irreplaceable midfield- combination with Xavi that provided Messi ample opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. They have literally been the brains behind Messi’s performances most of the time.

If it was upon me to pick a worthy winner for the shining Ballon d’Or, based on their performances in the past year, clubbed along with their respective team honours, it would undoubtedly be Ronaldo. The Portuguese hotshot has bought a new dimension to Real’s attack ever since his world-record transfer from Manchester United four years ago.

And if not Ronaldo, then Iniesta surely would have topped the lot. Messi…? Probably not this year…

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