He came, he saw and hell didn’t he conquer. He’d won it for the fourth time in a row, and to be honest, not many were surprised that he’d won it. Without a shadow of a doubt, it had been his year as an individual; just as it had been Cristiano’s the season before. 91 goals in a calendar year is no laughing matter and Lionel Messi’s name was right up there among the greats once he overtook Pele and Gerhard “Gerd” Müller. It’s great when you look at his tally of Ballon D’Or trophies. However, thinking about it in retrospect, one would probably have second thoughts about the credibility of the coveted prize.
The year was 2009, back when the FIFA Ballon D’Or wasn’t in existence. The FIFA World Player of The Year went to Lionel Messi ahead of the previous winner Cristiano Ronaldo and his Catalunian teammate Xavi Hernandez. The ‘Flea’ announced his arrival to the big stage by upsetting Cristiano and upstaging his teammate as he finished the year with about 38 goals compared to Cristiano and Xavi’s 26 and 10 respectively. It was just the beginning of the Cristiano-Messi rivalry.
Moving onto 2010, with the introduction of the Ballon D’Or came Lionel Messi yet again. However, the decision to present it to Messi came as a surprise to everyone with Wesley Sneijder being the favorite to win it that particular year. The dutch maestro was the key piece in Inter Milan and his country’s midfield. He led Inter through the season as they won the Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia, Italian Supercopa and the Club World Cup all in one seaon. To top it off, he also led Netherlands into the 2010 world cup final as they lost in a tight affair to Spain. On the flip side of the coin, Lionel Messi had only won the La Liga with Barcelona. He also had a rather quiet affair in the World Cup with Argentina as he failed to net a single goal in the tournament. To everyone’s surprise, Sneijder didn’t even feature in the top three nominees for the award. Highly puzzling as it was, FIFA’s defended their decision to present the award to Messi owing to his goal-scoring tally that particular season. Baffling I suppose.
Then 2011 presented itself to yet another Cristiano-Messi debate as the frontrunners for the coveted award. This year, without an inkling of a doubt, was Cristiano’s season to shine as he stepped up to be the highest scorer in the whole of Europe. He won the El Pichichi and proved to be the difference in the final of the Copa Del Rey as he scored the winning goal against Barcelona. He had scored 54 goals in the La Liga as compared to Messi’s tally of 53 and scored 10 international goals, overshadowing Messi’s tally of 2. Barcelona, however managed to garner more trophies as they won the Champions League and the La Liga. The award went to Messi again given the fact that he helped his team earn more trophies. Highly understandable given the circumstances, but it is ironical with what’s about to come.
This year, Messi won it the fourth time in a row, as mentioned earlier with Cristiano and Iniesta in contention. The irony of the fact remains however, that even though Messi created quite a few milestones in terms of his individual performances, Cristiano earned comparatively more for his team as he guided them to La Liga glory. He also led Madrid to the Semi-finals of the Champions League where they lost out to Bayern Munich in the ever-intense penalty shootout. He also proved to be the talisman for Portugal as he led them to the semifinals of the Euros where they lost out to Spain, yet again, in penalties. The irony of the situation is intriguing as it was again awarded to ‘The Flea’ for his incredible scoring tally while Cristiano was again left with being nothing more than a runner-up though his respective teams performed better, the reason for Messi winning it the previous year.
Given the circumstances, the Ballon D’Or is a puzzling subject. The world holds this award in high regard, but with the way things have been going, it becomes hard for one to imagine how things are going to turn out. It begs the question however: Is the Ballon D’Or credible anymore? Food for thought I guess.