And the winner of the Ballon d’Or is…
Created on Jan. 13, 2014 10:50 AM EST
It’s the beginning of a new year, which means it’s time for the most prestigious football award, the Ballon d’Or. As a football fan it is very exciting to see a gala with some of my all time favorite players, I love the tension among them, some of the biggest rivals sitting next to each other failing at hiding their big egos by faking their smiles. In the end, I love all the drama that award ceremonies bring. Today’s ceremony will be very different from what we have been seeing in the past four years, if things go the way rumor has them Lionel Messi won’t be taking the Ballon d’Or home. Cristiano Ronaldo, runner up in the past 3 out of 4 years of Messi’s reign would win his second Ballon d’Or.
There are many questions about Cristiano Ronaldo’s merits to win the award, his supporters claim that he was the best player in 2013, or at least the one in best shape. Arguments that support and negate these claims can be found as we review the year. Cristiano Ronaldo had a good year at the end of a mediocre season for Real Madrid and a not so promising beginning of a new one, and if the voting process had not been reopened by FIFA, voters wouldn’t have seen Cristiano’s major achievement of the year: scoring a hat trick at the second leg of the WorldCup Qualifying Playoff, taking Portugal to Brazil 2014.
Was Cristiano Ronaldo the best player in 2013? It’s debatable. He is a national hero in Portugal after he scored all four goals against Ibrahimovic’s Sweden during the playoffs. Many consider him a machine after he scored 66 goals in only 56 games. But critics are not impressed with his performance, many criticize the fact that he had to go to the playoffs to qualify to the World Cup when players like Messi qualified directly. Even the argument that 66 goals are enough to assure him the Ballon d’Or is debatable, many are not impressed because just last year Lionel Messi shattered Gerd Müeller’s record by scoring 91 goals in 69 games, and in his 56th game of the year Messi had scored 73 goals. Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo had an amazing year but it wasn’t something we hadn’t seen before.
While Cristiano Ronaldo’s supporters claim that 2013 was his year, I would say 2013 was the year where many things aligned in his favor. Lionel Messi’s injury is one of the main reasons why this happened, the Argentinean had some amazing performances at the beginning of the year, the one that I remember the most is eliminating Milan at the Camp Nou. Sadly soon after that he got injured playing against PSG in Paris, and since then things were not the same for neither Messi nor FC Barcelona. With the Argentinean out of the way, Ronaldo’s supporters knew he did not need an out of this world performance to win the prestigious award. Still Cristiano’s goals weren’t enough to win La Liga, his manager Jose Mourinho indirectly blamed him for losing the title when in a press conference he said that they weren’t going to win the league because they started the season sad, making a reference to comments made by Ronaldo at the beginning of the season. The ending of the 12/13 season couldn’t have been worst, Real Madrid lost against city rivals Atlético de Madrid in the final game of Copa del Rey, a game where Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off. Finally Cristiano Ronaldo was favored by some ‘humiliating’ comments made against him by FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter. Among many things Blatter said he preferred Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo, the reaction of the media was foreseeable: FIFA is attacking Ronaldo. Of course this had the effect that the sympathizers of the Portuguese were expecting, he won some sympathy points. The first goal Ronaldo scored after the incident was celebrated with a military salute (referencing some of the comments made by Blatter) which made his supporter go crazy, soon after that he went with Portugal to play a 2 leg game against Sweden, it was during that second game that someone in FIFA decided to extend the voting period. Cristiano had an amazing performance in these games, carrying Portugal in his shoulders, but was it fair to extend the voting period?
It is very likely that Cristiano Ronaldo will win the Ballon d’Or today, but will he really win? No one questions his talent, or whether his year was good or not, but was it enough? And even then, the award will be forever tainted by FIFA’s decision, so it is fair to ask who is the real winner of today’s award?