Thursday 8 December 2016

Comment: Why Lionel Messi deserves the Ballon d'Or ahead of Ronaldo

Jeremy Wilson

Published 30/11/2015 | 17:26

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

To understand why it is Lionel Messi and not Cristiano Ronaldo who deserves to win the Ballon d’Or, it is surely necessary to consider only one scenario.

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How might Luis Suarez and Neymar have fared if they had been recruited by Real Madrid rather than Barcelona and been asked to play alongside Ronaldo rather than Messi?

Or, to put this question another way, how have similarly priced talent in Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez actually fared while playing alongside Ronaldo?

The answer, of course, is that Messi has underlined a narrow superiority over Ronaldo during this past decade by maintaining his own exceptional personal standards while also doing more to extract the very best from those around him. So while Ronaldo’s individual goal ratio at the end of the 2014-15 season (61 in 54 games) might have compared marginally more favourably to Messi’s 58 in 57, his overall impact was surely still inferior.

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Messi (pictured above with Neymar and Suarez), after all, was part of a Barcelona team that not only won a domestic double in 2015 but also the Champions League and it has been to his enormous credit that Suarez and Neymar are thriving in a way that Bale, James and Karim Benzema perhaps never quite can alongside Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

This certainly felt evident in the most recent Clasico between the two clubs when, despite Messi playing an unusually small part following injury, the greater cohesion of Barcelona was so decisive in their 3-0 drubbing of a Real side that still looked like a collection of expensively assembled individuals.

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For all Ronaldo’s personal greatness, Real have still only collected one La Liga title in six seasons since he arrived from Manchester United in 2009. That is the same tally as Atletico Madrid and points to a relative weakness in Ronaldo’s ability to inspire those in his own dressing-room as well as dazzle himself.

Any viewer of the revealing recent film on Ronaldo would certainly have been left in no doubt as to the importance of the Ballon d’Or both to the former Manchester United winger and his agent Jorge Mendes.

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“It’s a card inside an envelope that can change so much,” Ronaldo says, before going on to describe the feeling of seeing Messi win the award every year from 2009 until 2012.

“To see Messi win four in a row was difficult for me. After he won the second and third I thought to myself: 'I’m not coming here again,'” he said. The irony, of course, is that by placing such emphasis on an individual award, Ronaldo actually only weakens his own case.

Football is a team game and that fundamental fact should always form the basis of the judging. It is personal view, then, that truly great generations of German and Spanish players should have received far greater recognition in an award that has been so utterly dominated since 2008 by Ronaldo and Messi.

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Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer have all had very convincing claims. Neymar and Suarez will understandably also have their supporters this year, although that would surely owe more to their outstanding start to this 2015-16 season than any sense that they were more influential than Messi in Barcelona’s treble.

And most weight in selecting the Ballon d’Or must should surely rest with the respective contributions when it most mattered. Messi’s subsequent role in Argentina only losing the Copa America on a penalty shoot-out to Chile adds further weight to his case in 2015.

Like Ronaldo, Messi has again maintained a phenomenal personal record but it is his wider team contribution that has also again made him the outstanding individual of 2015.  Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer have all had very convincing claims. Neymar and Suarez will understandably also have their supporters this year, although that would surely owe more to their outstanding start to this 2015-16 season than any sense that they were more influential than Messi in Barcelona’s treble.

And most weight in selecting the Ballon d’Or must should surely rest with the respective contributions when it most mattered. Messi’s subsequent role in Argentina only losing the Copa America on a penalty shoot-out to Chile adds further weight to his case in 2015.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Like Ronaldo, Messi has again maintained a phenomenal personal record but it is his wider team contribution that has also again made him the outstanding individual of 2015.

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Telegraph.co.uk

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