With the winner of this year’s coveted Ballon d’Or prize set to be announced on 13 January, a trio of Exeposé Sport’s finest pundits argue the case for each of the contenders – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Franck Ribery.
Lionel Messi - Joe Alexander
Messi has won the Ballon D’Or for the last four years running and will be in no hurry to give up the prestigious award after yet another scintillating season. 60 goals in 50 games in the 2012/13 season is an outrageous statistic, and whilst it is remarkably a downgrade on his goals-to-game ratio from the previous campaign, it is still five goals better than Cristiano Ronaldo could muster – in spite of playing five less games than the legendary Portuguese!
Messi’s efforts were instrumental in allowing Barcelona to clinch their 22nd La Liga title, as well as reaching the semi-finals of both the Champions League and Copa Del Rey. Whilst Barcelona’s failure to win the Champions League could count against Messi, the number of goals he has scored compares favourably to Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery, who could only deliver a sole goal whilst the Argentine scored eight.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic and, increasingly, Gareth Bale now being regarded as of a similar calibre to Messi and Ronaldo, Messi cannot go on winning the Ballon d’Or forever. On the other hand, it would be profoundly wrong for FIFA not to give him the award this year because he has won it so many times before – he has the best stats, has made the biggest impact of all contenders, and hence deserves to triumph.
Cristiano Ronaldo - Alex Bonner, Sports Team
Ronaldo’s performances this year have been nothing short of superb, having scored 67 goals in just 56 matches this year and scoring a record 14 goals in the Champions League this year. He should also be credited for his performances in the big matches this year, as evidenced by his stunning individual performance against Sweden in this year’s World Cup play–off in which the Portuguese striker netted four goals.
Ronaldo was rightly credited for his sublime individual performance following this match, demonstrating his credentials as a world – class footballer on the international stage. Furthermore, Ronaldo’s performances since Gareth Bale’s record transfer to Real Madrid have highlighted his excellent attitude towards the game, with Ronaldo scoring 25 goals in just 18 appearances in this season alone.
Correctly identifying his current form as the best of his career, Ronaldo’s place among the footballing all-time greats is now assured. With Messi’s recent run–in with injury, Ronaldo appears to be in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time since his sole win back in 2007 – scooping the award for the second time would be nothing less than deserved given his performances throughout the year.
Franck Ribery - Matt Bugler, Online Sport Editor
Franck Ribery should win the Ballon d’Or because he has been the outstanding player of the best team in club football, Bayern Munich. He has already been voted European player of the year and best player in the Bundesliga for 2013, testament to his great respect amongst his footballing peers. Having inspired Bayern to the treble of league, cup and Champions League, Ribery can proudly reflect on a year of both team and individual success.
Indeed, in some ways it seems counter-intuitive to be awarding individuals for a team sport. The arguments for Messi and Ronaldo winning revolve almost entirely on how many goals they have scored, and while Ribery’s tally of 23 goals is very good rather than mind-blowing, his significant tally of 22 assists suggests he is as happy creating goals as scoring. Ribery is much more the ideal team player, and his desire to put in a shift for others by charging back 40 yards to make a tackle has led Pep Guardiola to describe working with him “an honour”. This contrasts with Ronaldo, who views defending as far beneath him, and plays football with one aim: to prove he is the best regardless of his team’s score.
As for Messi, he may have been scoring for fun, but like Ronaldo, he has found himself against weaker opposition in Spain. An ineffectual performance in the thrashing by Bayern and the all-Bundesliga nature of the final suggests that German football is the highest form of the game, and Ribery has proved himself the best contributor to the best team in Europe.