The Fifa Balloon D’Or went to the wrong player, sort of
This year the Balloon D’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards merged and, as with everything FIFA awards, the winner was undeserving (although at least Qatari forward, Yusef Ahmed, didn’t win). The new award broke the conventions of its predecessors and was actually awarded to the best player in the world. This is not what the World Player of the Year is about.
Imagine a world where the World Player of the Year was simply awarded to the best player in the world. It would be a bit of a boring competition. Pele would have won it 10 or so times in a row. Ditto for Maradona. And Messi would win it every year for the rest of the decade. You see, as an annual award, the World Player of the Year does not work if it is simply awarded to the best player, different criteria is required.
In the past, the World Player of the Year has been awarded to the player who had the most tangible impact on his team winning the world’s biggest trophies – usually the Champions League or the World Cup. In 2007 Kaka won it following Milan’s Champions League victory. This was repeated in 2008 with Cristiano Ronaldo and Man U and in 2009 with Messi and Barcelona. In World Cup years, France won in 1998 so Zidane received the individual award. Ditto for Brazil and Ronaldo in 2002 and for Italy and Cannavaro in 2006. This system worked. It was the icing on the cake for individuals who had driven their teams to the summit of football. And in years where no team stood out (like in 2004 or 2005 when Porto and Liverpool grafted their way to the top) the prize would go to a truly outstanding individual, like Ronaldinho. Now, if that system had stayed in place Messi would not have won the inaugural FIFA Balloon D’Or.
In 2010 there were two teams that reached the summit of world football. Inter Milan at club level and Spain internationally. Sneijder was the single biggest driving force behind Inter’s treble winning season (well, him and Jose Mourinho); Spain’s first ever World Cup victory was made possible by the midfield maestro, Xavi. So, there we have the two perfect candidates for the FIFA Balloon D’Or. Normally a World Cup trumps a Champions League, but given Sneijder also picked up a league title, the Coppa Italia, joint top scored in the World Cup and guided Holland to second place it is fair to say that his achievements match a World Cup.
It is very hard to call who is most deserving out of Sneijder and Xavi, but it is irrelevant. Both aided their teams to unprecedented success and both fully deserving.
Yes, neither is as good at football as Leo Messi, but, in 2010, I don’t think you’d find a single Inter Milan or Spain supporter who would have swapped Sneijder or Xavi for Leo Messi. That is the point and that is the way it should be.
On a related point…
Why can’t the continental football associations agree on a single format for continental player of the year? The African Player of the Year is awarded to the best African player regardless of where he plays (currently Eto’o). This is a good format and should just be copied by everyone else. Currently Asia excludes players who don’t attend the ceremony thus effectively excluding European based players. South America only awards it to players in South America which again excludes players based in Europe and elsewhere. And Europe just doesn’t have an award any more.Tagged in: FIFA, Messi, world cup
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