Best in the world


  • The Gaffer
  • Saturday, 17 Jan 2015

(From left to right) Neuer, Messi and Ronaldo

EVERY year, one footballer is awarded the Ballon D’Or and crowned the best player in the world. Every professional player around the world dreams of winning it. Just ask Niklas “Lord” Bendtner and Hatem Ben Arfa… They still think they can win it!

Last year proved to be a successful year for many players but one player proved to be the better than them all. True, one might have expected to see a player from the German World Cup winning team bag the award but individual brilliance proved to be the key deciding factor.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro or more commonly known around the world as Cristiano Ronaldo scored 61 goals in 60 appearances for club and country and helped Real Madrid win the 2013/ 2014 UEFA Champions League. And those two things proved enough for him to edge past Argentina and FC Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi and Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to claim the Ballon D’Or.

Ronaldo is a worthy winner, of course, but a part of me feels bad for Neuer. Neuer was outstanding for Bayern Munich in their Championship winning campaign last season and was a wall for Germany in the World Cup.

He’s perfected the role of “sweeper-keeper”, pulled off stunning saves for club and country and was the main man behind Germany’s World Cup victory. I feel Neuer deserved to win the Ballon D’Or but since the award was voted for by players, coaches and journalists around the world, for them, I guess, goals and assists made a difference.

The last time a goalkeeper won the Ballon D’or was 52 years ago when Dynamo Moscow’s Lev Yashin beat Italy and AC Milan legend Gianni Rivera and England and Tottenham Hotspur striker Jimmy Greaves in 1963. Since then nobody has won and only Oliver Kahn and Gianluigi Buffon came close.

The main award aside, the team of the year was certainly the talk-of-the-town after the awards ceremony. To see David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Andres Iniesta in the team of the year ... well, I was lost for words!

I, for one, never thought those three would be in the team. They are great professionals but they were not at their best in 2014. Even Toni Kroos’s inclusion was a surprise as he only had a good World Cup campaign. He was disappointing with Bayern Munich last year and is still finding his feet with Real Madrid.

David Luiz … The 7-1 defeat against Germany is enough to sum up his year. He has flair and very good-natured but when it comes to defending, he does not inspire any confidence.

When he was partnered with Thiago Silva, they were effective but Silva makes sure that he doesn’t shirk his defensive duties and when there are lapses from Luiz, Silva is there to clean it up. Even with Chelsea, Luiz was erratic and Jose Mourinho laughed his way to the bank when Paris St Germain signed him for £50mil in the summer transfer window.

Thiago Silva is a good centre-back and I would list him as one of the best centre-backs in Brazil. He reminds me of a certain Lucio and he is also confident with the ball. Last year though, he was injured most of the time and returned to Ligue 1 at the tail end of the season.

He impressed in the World Cup but with Paris St Germain, he had a yo-yo season. Andres Iniesta is a magician when he is on-form. Iniesta and football is like Mozart and his music! However, he was not impressive in 2014.

Spain was booted out of the first round in Brazil, FC Barcelona finished second in La Liga and Iniesta’s stats were just not that convincing.

This might all sound harsh but I feel Luiz, Silva and Iniesta did not deserve to be in the team.

Who deserved to be included? Well, instead of Silva and Luiz, Diego Godin and Mats Hummels. Godin was sensational with Atletico Madrid last year though some might argue that Miranda was the stabilising factor in their defence.

Godin’s no-nonsense approach and ability to score from set-pieces helped Atletico to win the title and qualify for the Champions League final, The defender was also one of the shining lights for Uruguay in what proved to be a less than stellar World Cup campaign.

Mats Hummels was impressive for Borussia Dortmund and Germany and to me; he is one of the best centre-backs in world football. In 2014, many analyst and pundits commended his astute performances and ability to distribute the ball with ease.

After the World Cup, he was injured and Borussia Dortmund felt his absence as they struggled in the Bundesliga. It shows how important Hummels is to Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

As for Iniesta and Kroos, I would have preferred France and Juventus young midfielder Paul Pogba and Ivory Coast and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure in the middle. Both of them impressed last season and they were key figures in their club’s championship winning seasons.

But then again, professionals voted the team and they felt the 11 deserved to be included. I guess they should have analysed better before voting.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.  
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