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Did Cristiano Ronaldo Deserve To Be World Player Of The Year 2014?

FIFA’s recent awarding of the 2014 Ballon d’Or (World Player of the Year) to Cristiano Ronaldo proves that this award is more about politics and personal popularity than performance on the pitch.

Although players from multiple nationalities are nominated and win the award, they still all play for European clubs while those active in other leagues like South America and Mexico are generally overlooked. The best player is chosen by players and managers based on favoritism rather than merit, which often creates unworthy winners. Thus, the award lost its recognition and became the object of amusement and ridicule.

The Ballon d’Or was created by a magazine called France Football in 1956 to reward the creators of football history. But that’s not what it turned out to be.

THE LEAGUE

Between January 1 and December 31, 2014 in this competition Lionel Messi scored 35 goals in 36 matches (11 with the right foot, 23 with the left and the other with the head) while Cristiano Ronaldo scored 38 but with less versatility since only 4 have been. with his head and unfavorable left foot.

Moreover, Messi created 97 chances, 24 more than any other player and completed 164 dribbles, 63 more than Atletico Bilbao’s closest rival Iker Muniain (MAILOnline – Why Lionel Messi should win the Ballon d’Or after a banner year with Barcelona; by Kieran Gill, 12 January 2015).

EUROPE

Messi conquered the continent on November 25 by becoming the Champions League’s all-time top scorer in Nicosia, Cyprus. It was his 23rd European city, his 16th European country and recorded the 24th different stadium he had scored in (MAILOnline etc.)

2014 WORLD CUP

In football’s most important competition, Messi led Argentina to the final, was voted Man of the Match in 4 games (the most of any player in the competition) and won the Golden Boot as as the best player of the tournament.

He had the most impact on the competition. His goals were all winners which propelled Argentina into the final. He was the third top scorer with 4 goals and 1 assist, created the most chances, had the most successful dribble runs, made the most deliveries in the box and produced the most balls of all players.

On the other hand, Ronaldo was not a factor and only scored a late goal against Minnow Ghana and got an assist against USA.

HISTORY MAKER

Messi’s performance in 2014 was what Ballon d’Or is all about, historic performances. On March 16, he became Barcelona’s all-time top scorer (371). A week later, he became the top scorer in the Clasico (matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona) (21) with a hat-trick.

He scored his 400th career goal on September 27 against Granada and surpassed a 59-year record to become La Liga’s all-time top scorer (253) on November 22. Three days later, he overtook Raul with a hat-trick to become the all-time top scorer in the Champions League (74).

Considering all these achievements, one would think that of the three nominees, Messi was the most deserving of winning the award. Instead, not only did he lose to Ronaldo, but he and fellow contender Manuel Neuer got fewer combined votes (31.48%) than Ronaldo (37.66%).

In 2013, Ronaldo won nothing and Franck Ribéry won everything but nevertheless Ronaldo beat him.

How can all this be explained?

THE POLITICS BEHIND THE VOTE

FIFA criteria require national managers, captains and media officials to vote for the most outstanding performer of the last twelve months.

It’s no surprise that players vote for their teammates and compatriots. In the 2014 competition, for example, Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) gave the three places to the Germans, Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm and Thomas Muller.

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid) voted for his former teammates Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois.

Vincent Kompany (Belgium) voted teammates Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard as the two best players in the world with Arjen Robben third.

The best example of the politics in all of this is Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) who said without giving a reason that he regretted voting for Ronaldo instead of team-mate Neuer. This ‘change of mind’ can only be explained as coming from a player who wants to save face with his teammates in the dressing room rather than a voter with real conviction.

The same criticism applies to managers who only vote for national players. For example, the Argentinian coach Gerardo Martino gave the three places to his compatriots namely, Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and Javier Mascherano, the Belgian coach Marc Wilmots voted for the Belgian Thibaut Courtous for the third place, Didier Deschamps (France) gave the last place to French striker Benzema and Dutchman Guus Hiddink paid tribute to their compatriot Arjen Robben.

Players will get a lot of votes if they are popular “with the boys” and can play in front of cameras to advertise commercial products. Those who defend Ronaldo’s choice as the best player point to the fact that in the second half of 2014 he scored 32 goals. The problem is that 9 of those goals were penalties, so his non-penalty goals were 23, the same amount as Messi who had no penalties. Ronaldo is nicknamed “Penaldo” because of his mastery of drawing and scoring penalties.

In a World Cup year like 2014, your performance in this tournament is what defines you. On the biggest stage in the world, Ronaldo was not a factor and his supporters excuse him saying he was carrying an injury. If true that is unfortunate, but an injury is a misfortune, not a privilege and he can only be judged on his actual performance and not speculation on what he might have accomplished had he been in good shape.

The player of the year award has lost its authenticity. But it doesn’t have to be so. This is not a personality or prom contest. It is supposed to recognize performance on the field. Perhaps FIFA officials should become judges themselves, give more consideration to non-European clubs and use criteria such as achievements and fair play to choose the winner. It would not be a perfect system, but it would be better than the current system which is deeply flawed and cannot be taken seriously.

Victor A. Dixon

January 18, 2015

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