Ok, I know there are still a few hours to go before tonight’s gala in Zurich for the 2012 Fifa Ballon d’Or, but there can be little doubt remaining that Leo Messi is going to win his fourth consecutive award. Contenders Andrés Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo have both had an exceptional year but they will be forced to accept that Messi is at a different level.
There are some in the media who complain that the prize should go to a player who has won more trophies in the year and that Messi’s Copa del Rey is not enough. However, if you follow this argument you could say that Fernando Torres or Sergio Ramos should win this year which would give a whole new meaning to the word ‘best’. The criteria decided on is of course the prerogative of each voter, but if the question is: who was the best player in world football in 2012? – then surely there can be only one reply.
Like trophies, goals are also an important part of the game, though Messi’s insurmountable haul of 91 goals should not be the deciding factor either. The incredible consistency with which he has found the net has been remarkable and Barça’s excellent start to the season owes a great deal to his lethal finishing. However, Messi is so much more than just a goalscorer.
Since Pep Guardiola gave him the ‘false nine’ role back in 2009 the team has been built around him and his understanding with Barça’s other top stars is phenomenal. Whether combining in midfield with Xavi or Iniesta, linking closer to goal with Fabregas or Pedro, or sending perfectly timed passes for the forward runs of Alves or Alba, he always seems to know where the other player is as he directs the play.
He has adapted his work-rate more intelligently so that while he may at times appear stationary he is always ready to pressurize opponents at the most opportune moment. His has astonishing speed of thought which makes him capable of reacting quicker than other players to a loose ball or ricochet but it is still his velocity when running with the ball that most delights. Seeing Messi in full flight gives me a massive thrill every time, anything is possible when he has the ball at his feet, it has to be one of the most beautiful sights you can see in sport today.
There should be no shame for Iniesta or Ronaldo, just being on the podium with Messi should be seen as an honour, and both players have earned their places in football history. However, today we should all bow to Lionel Andrés Messi, the best player in the world of 2012, and for me and many many others, the best player of all time.
Send your comments on the Ballon d’Or. I’ll post some photos and comment after the ceremony.