Who should win the Ballon d’Or?

We have got used to some very high levels of football since Pep Guardiola took over at Barça, and given the exceptional play seen during the last couple of months with the 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid included, it is perhaps not surprising for those who watch the team regularly to hear some experts claiming that this is the best team in history. The fact that this year’s three finalists for the Fifa Ballon d’Or all come from one team is a clear indicator of the general acceptance now that Barça are at a different level. However, it is not the first time one team has provided the top three players in one year. In 1989 Marco Van Basten, Franco Baresi and Frank Rijkaard came in one, two and three while all representing AC Milan and quite remarkably the year before that it had been Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Rijkaard on the podium and Gullit also played for the Rossoneri. Those of you with long memories will recall that this Milan team also had the pleasure of stuffing Real Madrid 5-0, this was in the 1989 European Cup semi final and Madrid were thought to have a great team with the likes of Michel, Butregueño, Hugo Sanchez and Schuster playing that day.

Many people in Barcelona reacted to the question of which of our magnificent trio should win this year’s award by saying that all three deserve it. It may be a complicated decision but the judges have to decide who will receive the award when it is presented in a ceremony in Zurich on January 10 (this year as the award is a merger of France Football’s Ballon d’Or and the Fifa World Player Of The Year awards the votes are cast by the national team captains and coaches as well as members of the press). As a Barça fan who has seen every Barça game in 2010 as well as all the Spain and Argentina matches in World Cup Finals in South Africa I feel I am pretty well qualified to make a judgement.

Andres Iniesta reached the height of his career when he scored Spain’s winner in the World Cup Final in July and when the Ballon d’Or finalists were announced it was “leaked” that Iniesta had already been chosen as this year’s winner. The rumours that Iniesta has already been chosen intensified when Iniesta was placed in the middle of the three for the photo shoot that went with the announcement of the finalists. I will be delighted for Iniesta if he has won the award as he has demonstrated, especially with the Dani Jarque gesture, that he is a thoroughly decent bloke who is respected throughout the game. However, if Andres does win I am afraid that it may be due more to this respect from his fellow professionals than to his actual play. Don’t get me wrong, Iniesta is a magnificent player but I would not say that 2010 has been a vintage year for him. Despite the World Cup winner he was not at his best for Barça and he missed out on the run in to winning La Liga through injury. Only in the last couple of months have we begun to see him resembling his best form which for me came in the last few months of the 2008/2009 season.

If Iniesta is the favourite of the players, the choice for Barça fans is quite clearly Xavi. As I write Xavi has over 70% of the votes in the Barcacentral poll. Over the last two or three years Xavi has begun to earn the recognition he deserves. He was voted Player of the Tournament after Spain’s win at the Euro 2008, Man of the Match after the Champions League Final in 2009, and last season he finished third in both the Ballon d’Or and the Fifa World Player Of The Year. He has already been made Best Player of 2010 by different groups such as World Soccer magazine and the website ESPN soccernet, while Johan Cruyff has said “Xavi deserves the Ballon d’Or more than anyone because it is necessary in a team to have a guy who makes things work. Xavi is the player who sets the rhythm, who takes care of possession. If Xavi has a bad day then Barca do not play even half as well.”

There are plenty of arguments to give it to either Iniesta or Xavi, and incidentally I also preferred the 2009 Xavi (in the 2-6 win at the Bernabeu for example) to the 2010 Xavi. However, the award is supposed to go to “the best player of 2010”, not the player who scored the winning goal in the biggest match or the player who deserves it for his career achievements (here Fifa would do well to consider awarding a Lifetime Achievement Award which could also be presented at Ballon d’Or ceremony). And for me if I have to say who has been the best player in the world in 2010 the answer would be the same as I would have given for both 2008 and 2009: Leo Messi.

I have often thought that Messi must have reached his peak as it seems impossible for him to get any better. But he continues to astound with his brilliance, and his performances are probably the key reason why many people consider this season’s Barça to be better than the 2008/09 and 2009/10 versions. Messi was fabulous in 2009 but from March 2010 through to the end of the 2009/10 season when he scored 23 goals in 19 games for Barça, or during his recent run of 19 goals in 13 matches he has been unstoppable. His end of year figures for Barça of 58 goals in 54 matches are quite simply sensational.  I think it is fair to say that it is rare for any player to be acknowledged as being so superior to his contempories, and while I may have a sentimental preference for Xavi or Iniesta I really feel Messi has been the best player in 2010 by some distance.

Yes, Argentina didn’t win the World Cup and there is a history of the award going to a World Cup winner in a World Cup year. But Messi didn’t have a bad tournament in South Africa, it was just that Maradona’s skills as a coach are a long way from matching his skills as a player. The Ballon d’Or is an individual award and Messi shouldn’t be penalized for his coach’s incompetence. After the World Cup Maradona was replaced by Sergio Batista and Argentina showed what might have been by beating Spain 4-1 in a friendly in September. Besides I don’t agree that an individual award should be decided by a team performance.  Fabio Cannavaro won the Ballon d’Or in 2006 due to Italy’s World Cup success but it would probably be fair to say that Ronaldinho or Thierry Henry were better players at the time. It’s time to break with the tradition of giving it to a World Cup winner and give it to Messi again. I know the majority of you don’t agree with me, send in a comment and tell us why.

This entry was posted in Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi, Xavi Hernandez and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Who should win the Ballon d’Or?

  1. ayousb says:

    looking at it from the best performance angle, i really agree with the fact that the best player in the world in 2010 is no one else but Leo Messi which makes him the player that mostly deserves to win the ballon d’Or award but i think with the criteria Fifa uses to give the award, Messi will not be given and as Nic said, i don’t think it is fair enough to base it on that. I think the importance of the award is to know who really is the best player for the year.
    Yes it’s time to break with that criteria of giving it to a World Cup winner in a World Cup year (as they did in 2006) or a Champions League winner who does not deserve it (because I know they would have plan to give it to Sneidjer had it been this year is not a World Cup year) and give it to Messi again.
    Though Xavi was excellent because without him Barca and Spain would not have been the same, he really is the engine for both teams.
    Iniesta too is Superb, he’s always been there for us whenever we need him, scoring the needed goal in a crucial match e.g. Chelsea -09 and Valencia -this season and even the WC final in SA. But…

    Still ‘LEO MESSI’

  2. FCB-Parbo says:

    Agree all the way! I don’t think that Iniesta should win it at all.

  3. barcacentralroger says:

    Very nice Nic – I am with you that Messi SHOULD win, but I’m glad we’re in the nice position of not having to vote AND that regardless, one of the three best players in the world will win it and all from La Masia.

  4. blaugranaboy says:

    i slightly disagree with nic.

    messi was the best player in 2010, agreed. the goals he scored were many and outrageous. he was as brilliant as always for us.

    but, id bet quite some money messi isnt going to win it, and im ok with that. he’s won a few and will win many more in the future.

    i really REALLY REALLY hope xavi gets it. xavi has been the best center midfielder in the world for nearly 10 years now. i told people for years and years, but nobody listened because barca wasnt winning trophies and werent on the media stage like now. in fact, xavi had some of his best years pre rijkaard and had an incredible stint in the last 6 months of rijkaard first season. those 6 months stick in my mind, because believe me, he was outrageous. and hes just been at that level year in, year out. i truly believe xavi is probably the best passing midfielder of all time. ive never seen anyone with his vision, ability to keep the ball always, turn away from defenders with ease, and then play an incredible 30 yard killer pass which is inch perfect. xavi deserves one of these big awards, he just does. and i know the award is in its strict sense the best of that calendar month, but everyone knows these awards often are given as a “life time achievement” style award because that player who deserves one hasnt got it. players like xavi are always overlooked for the flashier goal scorer, and its unfair.

    messi was awsome, but trust u me, xavi had a big part in many of messi’s goals and a even bigger part in the way barca has come along. he just deserves this type of big time recongiition, he just does. and i dont know how many more times fifa or anybody is going to be this clever and actually nominate a player as incredible as xavi who doesnt get 25-30 goals and do flashy tricks. i fear if he doesnt get it this year, he may never. his role in the spain 2010 WC win can also not be overlooked.

    but iniesta has a very good chance because these awards have had some seriously stupid voters (the ballon at least much less than the fifa one). they love the crucial goals and they love the winning teams.

    im quite confident its between xavi and iniesta. and i just think xavi really deserves it for the lifetime of his work. he just deserves the recognition in this very legitimate way, its a way he will be remembered throughout history as one of the best, because he was.

  5. bc9jaCulé says:

    In all manner of sincerity, Messi deserves the awards. His exploits over the past few years (and especially this year) are quite astronomical. But! But!! But!!! Traditionally, world best players in world cup years emerge from the winnin’ team of the world cup. Based on this FIFA doctrine, I wish to declare XAVI (THE ORCHESTRATOR OF PLAY-MAKING) as the world best player of 2010. No other comes close. Although Iniesta looks good too, I think he has more playing years to establish himself unlike Xavi who’s almost biddin’ his farewell to the round-leather game. In sum, I give it to Xavi!

  6. barcacentralroger says:

    “Messi, Xavi, Iniesta: Compare and contrast”

    Cold hard facts – best player of the year, Messi.
    Most deserving (over a period of years) – Xavi.
    Heart says – Iniesta.

    Nic and I were talking and we suggested that there should be an award that isn’t quite a lifetime achievement award (ie, once someone has retired) but some award that recognises consistency and could be award for a period of 5 years or instead towards the end of a career. In fact, perhaps the Ballon D’Or and FIFA awards should not have been combined but instead one have changed focus, but the problem is we tend to think only in superlatives, as if that is the secret of winning football (or “winning” anything).

  7. FCB-Parbo says:

    Oh I’m so confused! All people around the globe are saying that Messi is the best player, but then for some sentimental reasons for Xavi or Iniesta, Messi shouldn’t win. Well, that’s unfair.

  8. I have no doubts who should win: Xavi. That’s it. His value is so much more subtle and yet critical. He provides a level of support to the team on the pitch that sets the pace or tone, adjusts it, hones it. He’s the maestro. The template of what this team has become. Without Xavi, this current side wouldn’t exist, any more than if Pep hadn’t become coach. Xavi has shown what was possible in the game and now an entire side emulates his finest qualities. The result is something we’ve never seen before, a level of football that is truly mesmerizing in its display and effectiveness. Through Xavi, a new plateau of synchronization and coordination as a team is manifest.

  9. bc9jaCulé says:

    Seriously, it’s goin’ to be a tough decision come Jan.10. If only it’s possible for the awards to go to the trio combinedly!!!

    I mean, u can’t but give due recognition to Messi’s scintillatin’ feat in 2010. Yet, Xavi has been excellently magnificient all through the year (and in fact, over the years). Or is it Ini’s all-important world cup winnin’ goal you’ll pretend not to identify with?

    Let’s see if the voters will break the “world cup winnin’ team” jinx this year and vote for Messi.

    But if it’s not Messi, it can only be Xavi.

  10. FCB-Parbo says:

    Are we forgetting that’s about the year 2010? Does BC have their own statistics about the players?
    Here’s the comparison how the players have done it in the second half of the year. If someone has those of the first half, then it would be very much appreciated if you post it.


  11. @shexyluis says:

    Xavi. This man deserves it.

  12. Caleb says:

    Xavi. National team play, for better or worse, does count in World Cup years. Argue what you want for Messi and Argentina, but with Spain you have a very positive argument for Xavi. First WC for the country, and Xavi is absolutely the heart of the team. Have you seen Spain play without Xavi? They’re horrible.

    I think there is usually a tencency for the strikers and those who score a lot of goals to get these types of awards. Xavi does what he does so well. Even if he isn’t the flashiest scoring all the goals, he had a fantastic season (Snieder really deserved to make this short list, though. And I say this as a person that hated Inter Milan and wasn’t super pumped about the Dutch last season).

  13. Hi guys,

    sorry for a bit of a delay but have been caught up in the Xmas stuff.

    I actually agree Nic- taking the award for what it is, Messi is clearly the best player playing football today. My personal love and bias for Xavi makes it hard to put him second but sadly on paper it’s the way it is. Iniesta I feel is quite some gap behind those two – yes he scored the two standout goals that people remember(Chelsea game and WC final) but apart from that I actually don’t believe he deserves to be in the final 3 (and don’t get me wrong, Im a Iniesta fan) but someone like Sneider shouldve been there in his spot.


  14. barcacentralnic says:

    Just a quick coment to say there is now a BarcaCentral page on Facebook, I imagine we will be plugging it from time to time but you can check it out here – http://www.facebook.com/pages/BarcaCentral/133772613350398
    So, you can add it to your likes, post links or whatever other possibilities the wonderful world of Facebook offers.
    Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days, we all need a break at Christmas, there should be a match preview for the Levante game coming soon.
    Happy New Year people!

  15. DAYYIB-SM says:

    this year the fifa Ballon d’Or goes to great XAVI HERNANDEZ…..

    the other two have plenty to take again but xavi is 31 year old and he is not indivitual player…and he is my favourate player all time….


  16. Pingback: Messi wins the Ballon d’Or | barcacentral

  17. Pingback: Michezo magazetini leo..

  18. Bledi says:

    Messi no one else can much him he pass he scores he never give ball way for nothing when he have the ball everyone is waiting what new he will do and that’s true …. I really think messi deserve it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s