The FIFA Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual achievement that you can be awarded in world football. For the last three years it’s been a non-contest and the prize has been given, indisputably, to Lionel Messi. As a prize that should be awarded to the best player in the world in a given season it’s somewhat confusing that there have been calls for it to be given as a prize for retrospective achievement. As well as showing the best player in the world, it also reflects on the success of nat
ions in honing their player’s skills. Yesterday the nominations for the 2012 award were announced, providing a great basis for re-examining the influence and basis of this prestigious award.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t agree that Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world. Every now and then someone will tell you Cristiano Ronaldo is better at setpieces or has more of a physical presence. Sometimes an outspoken pundit or personality will make a wild claim just to draw attention, such as Maradona claiming that Neymar is the best in the world. But when it comes down to it, no other man in the world can match Messi’s consistency at performing jaw-dropping skill time and time again, as well as his sensational goal and assist tally.
Surely the argument for Messi to retain his prize again this year isn’t even an argument, and should be a foregone conclusion, but there will always be those who argue against the obvious, even if the obvious is the right decision. Some are pushing the point that Cristiano Ronaldo has waited his turn and now deserves the prize, and that Messi has had his fair share of individual recognition. But surely competitive sport should always mean awarding the best, and being so consistently brilliant should be celebrated instead of pushing you to the side and telling you you’ve had your turn.
In the same vein, some are pushing Casillas through as a deserving winner. They have a point; he’s been Spanish captain for their entire European and Global dominance and has been consistently the greatest goalkeeper in the world. Now, the debate of whether a goalkeeper can be the best player in the world isn’t something to get into right now, but the argument that you should be awarded an individual award that is specifically defined as being an award for the achievement of a single season, on the basis on longevity and achievements over eight years is surely self defeating.
Looking at the players nominated, there are a variety of thirteen different nationalities and only four countries having multiple nominees. Unsurprisingly Spain dominates with eight players. Another trend that is obvious is Europe’s dominance, with only four non-European players (Neymar, Falcao, Drogba and Y. Toure). Of all the players nominated only one plays outside of European competition with Neymar calling the Brazilian leagues home.
Most regular football fans would be unlikely to identify many players in leagues outside of Europe, but as a worldwide prize is this an indication of trying to pick players that maintain relevance to the average fan or are we overlooking a number of otherwise great players?
Most of the nominees are obvious, with only one or two missing faces or players that look out of place. Balotelli is the most apparent of these. He’s a good player, and once he gets his temperament and selfish style of player under control, he could be one of the greats but otherwise he’s of a certain standard that is below Ballon d’Or nomination.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is one player I was surprised not to see, he had a remarkable season last year and was one of the shining lights of the ever-improving German Bundesliga, 48 goals in 47 appearances for FC Schalke 04 is nothing to be sneered at, an incredible achievement and a deserving nominee.
The Ballon d’Or is as usual very uncontroversial in it’s nominees, and is good for hitting the mark for the players that most deserve the plaudits. However, this year it could be in danger of moving away from the individual achievement that it is designed to be, and if it succumbs to public pressure by moving to a more long-term recognition award then it could be in danger of failing to live up to it’s history.