Often football’s greatest talents are forged in some of Europe’s less popular leagues.
In December this year and for the first time in over a decade, the FIFA Ballon d’Or will be awarded to an unfamiliar and new king of the footballing world.
For reasons later discussed, we will ignore last year’s pitiful crowning of Luka Modric.
Yes, there are a handful of candidates who seem to to have the favour of the bookies and football fans around the world, but this year it is crucial to the award’s credibility that the right decision is made as we usher in a new era of football.
Favourites include front runners Virgil van Dijk and Lionel Messi, usual suspect Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and French wunderkind Kylian Mbappe. Most candidates for this year’s award have earned their nominations through merit while others are popular with fans, journalists and football’s governing bodies.
Some players have been snubbed and some selected as mere formalities. It is important that these decisions maintain the award’s esteemed reputation.
The FIFA Ballon d’Or is football’s most prestigious individual award and should be criticised for being handed to Luka Modric at its most recent ceremony.
The Croatian No.10 captured the hearts of fans everywhere by captaining his comrades to the 2018 World Cup final – a final in which they were defeated convincingly after scraping their way through the lopsided B-side of the tournament.
Without convincing stats that prove it, Modric had always been considered Real Madrid’s engine to success as they dominated European football, winning four Champions League trophies in five years. This was a period where Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo shattered records and won three of his five golden balls.
This, accompanied by Real Madrid’s worst start to a season in decades post-Ronaldo, should be enough to tell anyone who Los Blancos’ greatest period of success was owed too. Nor is placing second in the World Cup any more deserving of the Ballon d’Or than Word Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Raphael Varane, who was also an integral part of that same Real Madrid team.
Last year’s award didn’t even consider the masterclass of Bernardo Silva. Pep Guardiola himself stated that Silva was his key man last season in a domestic treble, which saw Manchester City display some of the most beautiful possession-based attacking football of all time.
Ronaldo is a heavy favourite this year in a season that has been far from his best. Raheem Sterling has been snubbed despite his dominance of English football.
We are leaving the Messi (32) and Ronaldo (34) era of dominance and entering into a future of football, which is as bright as ever. Maybe we had to wait for a decade of dominance to end, but we didn’t have to award the Ballon d’Or to an undeserving recipient.
Today’s football has surged with young talent at a time when any team can win anything and any top player can have a season that wins them important individual awards. This is a sign that football is growing.
What is important, however, is that this sacred award is given to the right player based on merit.
Let’s hope that this year, whoever the winner, fans around the world can be proud of the hands that sacred golden ball falls into.