Arguments about the most prestigious footballing prize always rage on between the World Cup and the Champions League, but in the personal accolades, there are no debates. The Ballon d’Or is by far the most sought after award by those at the top of the pyramid. The 2013 calendar year (god knows why they don’t do it by season) has produced three candidates for our choosing; Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Frank Ribery.
The FIFA Ballon d’Or competition was not without drama this year. Most notably, the decision by FIFA to extend the voting window for the award from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29. This decision, controversially, coincided with Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroic performance to get Portugal to the World Cup by beating Sweden in their playoff game. Also, as usual, Blatter was always in the spot light for saying something stupid. He gave his opinion on who he prefers between Messi and Ronaldo, favoring the diminutive Argentine. This only matters since people don’t realise that Blatter is not the one that gives the award. It’s based on a voting system which includes coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists from around the world. We can write a whole article on just how unfair or biased the award is but lets not dwell on that right now.
As the awards ceremony begun in Kongresshaus, Zurich (Switzerland) the three contenders sat awaiting their fate. Yes, Cristiano decided to show up and, as usual, he was very stylish with his lovely girlfriend Erina Skaykh. Irina was looking radiant of course until Adriana Lima stepped on stage. Messi, in his red suit, surprisingly didn’t bring Iniesta along for support, while Ribery had a hopeful look on his face. After a grueling hour or so of formalities it was finally time to announce the winner; Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo was very emotional which was a surprise to me. He could barely speak while pushing back tears. Im happy for him. Congratulations!
It was rumored for a while that Cristiano Ronaldo would win it. I’m going to give you my honest opinion on the matter. Let me start by eliminating Ribery. Personally, he never had a shout to win this Prize. This is the Ballon d’Or; the prize given to the best INDIVIDUAL football player over the calendar year. That description does not fit Ribery. Yes, he won the German Bundesliga, German Cup, Champions league, and Club World Cup, which is quite impressive to be honest, but it does not equate him to winning the award. Winning those competitions is a prize on its own and the Ballon d’Or can not be a prize given to the guy who won the most prizes … see my point. It just becomes redundant. Last season, Ribery amassed 16 goals and 22 assists for his club while at the beginning of this season he already has 13 goals and 10 assists. These stats are far from impressive for a Ballon d’Or winner BUT if he keeps up his current goal scoring and assisting rate in the 2013/2014 season then he might have a shout for next year’s. My main quarrel is that Ribery did not stand out last season as the clear main man for Bayern Munich’s invasion of trophies. He was definitely a very important cog but that’s it. Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Martinez, Robben, Muller, and so on have all been just as important. Maybe Ribery, from an individual stand point, was cursed for being in such a dominating team. Im sure he isn’t losing sleep over it. At the end of the day, he has had a much more fruitful season that lets say Cristiano, who I am sure would trade the Ballon d’Or for Ribery’s 2013 trophy haul. So for that, congratulations to Ribery; the player with the best TEAM season in a long long time.
Now for the Messi vs Ronaldo debate. Im going to start off by saying that Ronaldo did deserve the award. In the 2012/2013 season he scored a whopping 57 goals for Real Madrid. Ronaldo’s stake for the Ballon d’Or got a huge boost for his performances in the current 2013/2014 new season. This season he has 32 goals for his club in only 25 games and his champions league performances have really stood out as he broke the record of most goals scored in the group stages with 9. What probably got Ronaldo a lot of his votes, were his performances for Portgual in the World Cup qualifiers. His 4 goals for Portgual and general heroic performance against Sweden in the playoffs were truly mesmerizing.
So now that I’ve established Ronaldo as the deserved winner, let me present you my second quarrel of this piece. World media, Fans, and Ronaldo himself have painted a picture that Ronaldo is the CLEAR winner. I beg to differ. I believe this was very much a two horse race between himself and Messi. The actual vote breakdown was 27.99% of the vote for Ronaldo. Messi gets 24.72% and Ribéry 23.36%, a much closer race than was portrayed recently, and let me tell you why. Please keep in mind that any excuses for Messi are only done to show it was a close race, and NOT to say he should have won.
|Dribbles and runs||331||252||1084|
|Dribble Completion %||51.36||46.03||45.57|
Both these great players, who we are all lucky to witness play at the same time, have had an outstanding year from a number crunching perspective. Messi ended the 2013 season with a La Liga Trophy while scoring a whopping 56 goals in all competitions. This is the first point in Messi’s column; the La Liga trophy. Ronaldo had not won a trophy in 2013. I know I slated Ribery and said trophies aren’t everything, but I also said Ribery wasn’t the clear standout performer for his club, which no one can say the same for Messi. The other aspect that swayed the balance towards Ronaldo, not at his own fault, are the two months which Messi was out injured for at the beginning of the 2013/2014 season. While Ronaldo was tearing up the Champions League, Messi was on the treatment table. Messi fans will tell you that he would’ve easily also shone in the group stages as Ronaldo has. The final factual argument is the EXTRA games which Ronaldo got to shine in. The Portugal play off games, I feel, were truly what clinched the Ballon d’Or for Ronaldo. It was not his fault that Messi did not get the same opportunity but it must be said that he did get a very big stage to shine on and improve his chances. To his credit he did take it with both legs and cemented his Ballon d’Or win. Some will say, Messi got Argentina through at the first time of asking. I love playing Devil’s Advocate.
To recap, while keeping both Messi and Ronaldo fans relatively happy, I am repeating my stance. Ronaldo deserved the Ballon d’Or for the 2013 calendar year. That’s final. I’m also stressing that it was a very close race and not as black and white as some have made Ronaldo winning to be. In the end, lets just enjoy these top two players who we will not see the like of for at least another generation. Ronaldo can cuddle up to his two Ballon d’Or trophies in bed while Messi can cuddle two of his while bringing the other two on as substitutes for the second half. Till next year!