In the end, the Ballon D’or turned out to be almost inconsequential. We all knew it would be Messi. The man’s hammered just about every record he can get his hands on, most prominently Mueller’s record for goals in a calendar year.
He also continues to earn the plaudits of just about every player, current or otherwise. He is the best in the world. Let’s move on.
It was in fact the FIFA FIFPro World XI (more of a mouthful than Jan Venegoor of Hesselink) which created a stir amongst the journalists and armchair pundits respectively. All La Liga, composed of three teams, and dominated by Spaniards. It appears we’re growing a little tired of the dominance. So let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.
We should immediately acknowledge that this team is voted for by all professional players. Over 55,000 of them pick a keeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards, so in many ways it’s hard to dispute the decision. No dusty old board members to blame here.
Secondly, the rivalry between these two sides has set them on another planet. Much like Messi and Ronaldo, Itchy and Scratchy, Ali and Frazier, the rivalry has caught the attention of their audience, and as both trade blows, the rest of world football sits and watches like Nick Clegg in a coalition government.
Individually we’re watching superstars. The Galacticos in my opinion are not what they used to be. Remember Carlos, Zidane, Figo, Beckham and Raul? The Pepsi Advert? Well this is a different bunch but don’t let my sense of nostalgia obscure your vision of the facts. Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta, Ramos, it’s a Hollywood style rivalry, so why shouldn’t it sweep up at the awards? Here’s why.
Was nobody else watching the Premier League last year?! It was mental! Amid the goalfests and miserable defending, there were some dazzling displays. Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and David Silva shone brighter than all of Sheikh Mansour’s coins put together, Van Persie sparkled for Arsenal and, more recently, Manchester United and Chelsea took home the most unlikely of Champions League titles. And that’s just in England.
Elsewhere, the Bundesliga got a side in the final in Bayern Munich, and the league itself is in fine shape. Producing teams like Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and players to make your mouth water, Germany will feel aggrieved to have been forced out by the Spanish.
Further south as well, a little-known club called Juventus went an entire season undefeated to scoop the Scudetto. Their national team almost completed a superb season for Italy by reaching the Euro 2012 final, and for a player of Pirlo’s ilk to have missed out will have left some Italians puzzled.
But then as I mentioned earlier, this was the pros as voted by the pros. So who are we to complain?
For the purposes of debate I’ve formulated a team of the year based on team chemistry, rather than individual stars. A team which I believe would work well, including a few faces we might have seen in the official XI this year. Feel free to disagree; I’ll probably berate myself later. But that’s the beauty of the game, isn’t it?
LB: A. Cole
CM: Yaya Toure
ST: Van Persie