The annual discussion surrounding which star is most deserving to win the Ballon d’Or is once again upon us and many fans around the world made their predictions for how this year’s voting will play out. Any time an individual award is handed out in any sport, fans and voters face the existential crisis about how to properly weigh individual talent/production versus team triumphs.
According to FIFA’s official website, the Ballon d’Or winner will be “recognised as the best individual talent for the past year in world football.”
The official definition would seem to indicate that club/national team success shouldn’t be a deciding factor in choosing a winner, but that’s almost never the case. It’s why many believed Franck Ribery should’ve won the 2013 Ballon d’Or over Ronaldo last year and why those same people argue Neuer should beat out the Madrid winger this year.
Ronaldo helped Real Madrid help capture that elusive 10th European title, his trophy haul pales in comparison to Neuer’s with Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga by 19 points while also winning the 2013 Club World Cup and DFB-Pokal. Most importantly, Neuer played a key role for Germany as they took home their fourth World Cup title.
Absurdly however, Neuer runs into two problems: First he’s a goalkeeper. It’s much harder to quantify a goalkeeper’s quality and impact relative to an outfield player simply because he has much less to do. The number of saves a GK makes and clean sheets he keeps aren’t simply the measure of his ability. They’re reflective of the defence as a whole.
Neuer may be the best goalkeeper in the world, but Lev Yashin’s the only GK to win the Ballon d’Or, and that was back in 1963 and in an interview with FIFA.com, Gianluigi Buffon, arguably the best goalkeeper of his generation and the 2006 Ballon d’Or runner-up, acknowledged that goalkeepers are almost always overlooked during award season. Not only is Neuer battling history, but some may also contend that he wasn’t even the best player on his own team, with players like Philip Lahm and Arjen Robben playing a large role in Bayern’s success. Lahm captained Germany to the World Cup victory and Robben helped the Netherlands reach the World Cup semi-final.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, benefits from being a flashy playmaker and goalscorer on the reigning European champions and Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Thomas Muller questioned having a Ballon d’Or ceremony at all when the Portuguese star is widely expected to win: “If CR7 wins, then it would be almost boring.” Muller said. “In that case, maybe it would be an idea to reconsider the whole award and just send him the award in the post.”
Lionel Messi will Finish Lowest in Voting Since 2007 and it almost feels like Messi is a complete afterthought this year, which is the first time that’s the case in a long time. Messi remains one of the top players in the world, but 2014 felt like a bit of a drop by his sky-high standards. Barcelona had to deal with the managerial upheaval and injuries en route finishing second in La Liga, to Atletico Madrid in 2013/14, also losing to Atletico in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup, and Argentina finished second at the World Cup, so the international success is there.
With that said, this year appears to be Ronaldo’s, with Neuer’s (the player who should have won) combination of performance and team success propelling him into second.