First things first, the whole notion of the Ballon d’Or is a bit rubbish isn’t it?
In these days of every football match from every continent being just a click of a television remote or a mouse away, we all know who the best players are.
They are the men who stare back at us from the adverts for the latest computer game or fragrance or their own brand of underwear. They are the footballers who have become bigger than football – with hundreds of thousands choosing to never miss a Barcelona or a Real Madrid match on television instead of actually going to watch their local teams on a Saturday afternoon.
As Roy Hodgson experienced this time a year ago when he chose to give some recognition to Javier Mascherano – the warrior capable of playing in defence and midfield who literally put his body on the line to help drag Argentina to the World Cup final in Brazil – you simply cannot say that any footballers are better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the current age, even if it is just for a year and even if you are focusing more on attributes which don’t exactly look good in a Vine. To do so is to invite the type of ridicule that the social media age specialises in.
And that’s perfectly understandable, of course.
Year on year – or at least for each one of the last eight, as it will be when Messi is crowned the world’s best again later this evening – these are the two players who have set the standards for others to follow, usually amassing freakish goalscoring records and dragging their teams to success after success.
The Messi v Ronaldo narrative is one that has become inescapable, and one which envelops the modern game like nothing else has for the past decade, but although it is all too easy to dress them both up as superheroes, this latest success for Messi cannot come without paying homage to his sidekicks.
Of course the Argentinean has always played in fantastic Barcelona teams, but the contributions of Luis Suarez and Neymar to Barca’s five trophies in 2015 make it impossible and downright disrespectful to overlook them.
Neymar will be up there alongside his teammate on the podium in Zurich later, probably having finished behind Ronaldo – for the world isn’t ready for that change just yet – and his scoring record alone is worthy of a double-take. He scored 24 times in the second half of last season, and 15 so far this. That’s insane.
Suarez has netted 26 times in 28 appearances this season, as well as scoring the crucial second goal in June’s Champions League final victory over Juventus in Berlin. There’s only room for three on the Ballon d’Or shortlist but he’s about as clear a fourth place as it is possible to be.
The point here is that whilst individual awards are all well and good – and this one is seemingly the crowning glory in this Batman v Superman Messi v Ronaldo battle that the world remains transfixed by – the real accolade should be reserved for the Barca front three as a collective, as together they have produced the type of attacking force that has never really been seen before.
There has to be a Ballon d’Or and it has to go to Messi, but we should remember 2015 as the year that two of his teammates joined him in the top echelons of footballing greatness.
And they don’t need a trophy to confirm that, as they’ve already won enough.
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