Sun, 22 Sep, 2019

FIFA Ballon d’Or 2014: Who will claim it?

By Anish Thakuri

2014 is surely one of the remarkable years in the history of football. The world has witnessed a couple of exciting football tournaments along with the most awaited FIFA World Cup in Brazil the past summer.  A month long football tournament ended with welcoming the new world champions. This time, the German football team proved that they are a cut above everyone else in the planet. Real Madrid FC claimed record 10th Champions league (formerly called the European cup) tagged as the 'La-Decima'. Manchester City was crowned the English Premier League. As usual, Bayern Munich was way ahead of other teams to claim their 24th Bundesliga title. Ending the two horse race between the Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, maintained firmly since the past 14 years, Athletico Madrid got their hands to the La Liga. Now, the 2014 has come to an end and we have seen some of the eye-catching football display by teams as well as individual players. But this is the time to select the best player who has performed magnificently in football throughout the year. So who will be regarded as the best player of this year? FIFA has shortlisted the top 3 contenders this week. FIFA initially announced the list of 23 players in contention for the FIFA Ballon d’Or five weeks ago. Surpassing to the other players, the three players who managed to be in the top 3 are the sweeper keeper Manuel Neuer from Germany and Bayern Munich, Portuguese and Real Madrid's winger Cristiano Ronaldo and the Argentine and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. A close battle is expected between them to be the world's best. If the individual records and the trophy won are to be given the utmost priority, Ronaldo seems to be the hot favorite to claim his 3rd trophy. The Portuguese skipper, who won the Ballon d’Or back in 2008 and 2013, has performed exceptional throughout the year. The former Ballon d’Or winner was the main leader behind the success of Real Madrid over the Champions league this year scoring record 17 goals in a single season of the most elite competition in Europe. Besides that, he managed to find the net 31 times in last season's La Liga campaign and was the joint high-scorer of the Europe topflight along with the former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Ronaldo has already managed to win the UEFA Best player of the Season, Best player in La Liga, Di Stefano Award, European Golden shoe and most goals in 2014 in all competitions. The only down point is that his country, Portugal had a forgettable world cup 2014 getting knocked out from the very preliminary stage suffering a 4-0 humiliation against World Champions, Germany. His teammates were simply too low on level to compete with other elite teams. He was surely not getting the support as in star-packed Real Madrid. His excellent form hasn't dropped and has already scored 26 goals for Real Madrid this season, 20 in the La Liga. With his form, Real Madrid just seems unstoppable this year. A fresh face in this list is the sweeper keeper Manuel Neuer. His brilliant performance was one of the reasons for German football team to victory over the WORLD CUP. He has been magnificent throughout the tournament and awarded the Golden Glove. He also won the Bundesliga and German Cup (DFB Pokal) with Bayern Munich and was Golden glove winner of Bundesliga last season. Some of his notable achievements are the inclusion in World Cup Dream Team, 4 clean sheets in world cup, 86% save percent in 2014, GK with most clean sheets in 2014. Being a goal keeper he has completed as equal passes as midfielders in World Cup. But it is always disadvantage for goalkeeper as the nominee as compared to forward or midfielder. Majority won’t remember how many clean sheets or brilliant saves that the goalkeeper has made but they will only remember how many goals the forward has scored. Whatever may be the argument, Neuer is truly the world's best class goalkeeper at this period. Another nominee is Lionel Messi, which is his 8th consecutive nomination in the top 3. He is regarded as one of the best players of this generation.  If we analyze his record, no one can deny the fact that he is a living legend of football. He won successive Ballon d’Or from 2009 to 2012. But as compared to the past years, this year hasn’t been so memorable for him. Needless to say, he failed to win a single trophy with both his country and club.  Most importantly, he failed to add a World Cup trophy. Otherwise, there is no doubt; he would stand alongside legendary figures, Pele and Maradona. Messi has won everything possible with his club Barcelona but the Olympic Gold Medal and U-20 FIFA World Cup title. This time, his world cup run was splendid. Under his captaincy, Argentina got all the way to the finals but ended up as the Runner up. Because of his high flying performance, he was awarded the Golden ball. He also broke a couple of records this season. In this year he became the all-time high-scorer of La Liga surpassing 250 of Tello Zarra's.  He also became the all-time high-scorer in UEFA Champions League with 73 goals surpassing Raul's 71. But, these records are not going to count as the voting deadline was already over by the time he broke them. Though he had a mediocre year, he still managed to score 50 plus goals and 20 plus assists in 2014. Some of his notable achievements are the inclusion in the World Cup Dream Team, 2nd Top scorer in European top competition, Golden Ball Winner of World Cup. But still the chances are very low for him. His inclusion in the top 3 is more by reputation than merit. The Ballon d'Or winner will be decided in a conference in Zurich on January 12, 2015. In my opinion, Cristiano Ronaldo deserves this award for his phenomenal performance. Being sentimental, I would love to see Neuer winning it because he has broken barriers and emerged as true world class beater even from the back position. Also, a Goalie winning it may bring in some excitement in the forthcoming years and end the dominance of Messi and Ronaldo. I wish all three contenders a very good luck. Enjoy and support your favorite one.