This past Monday would have been a great day to make history. Instead, January 12, 2015 will be remembered as the day where soccer players, coaches and sports experts from all over the world collaboratively could have made history but unfortunately refused to do so. Of course I’m referring to Cristiano Ronaldo being awarded the 2014 Ballon d’Or, arguably the most prestigious honor an individual player can receive.
Why I am so upset about the jury’s decision, you may ask? Certainly not because I’m doubting Ronaldo’s skills (only a fool would do so) or because I think he didn’t deserve the golden ball. He is an outstanding, incredibly talented player who’s achieved great things with Real Madrid in 2014. Not only did Cristiano Ronaldo win four titles with his club (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Copa del Rey which is the annual competition for Spanish soccer teams just like the “DFB-Pokal” in Germany or the “FA Cup” in England) but he also boasts a goal record any professional would dream of. Ronaldo is indeed pretty awesome. And yet in my opinion there is someone else who should have won instead: Germany’s / Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.
Just to be clear: I was born and raised in Munich, therefore it would be wrong to assume that I am completely unbiased. However, I strongly believe that my sincere love for soccer is far greater than any bias or national pride. Besides, who else should be in charge of complaining other than the Germans?
My disappointment arises first and foremost from the fact that appointing a goalkeeper as FIFA’s best player of the year would have been a statement in terms of acknowledging Neuer’s distinct conception of his position. For he is far more than a traditional goalie, he basically reinvented his role and fits more into the perception we have of a sweeper, if not even a centre-back (outside the penalty box of course). To put it in other words: In the long run, Manuel Neuer is changing this sport. Because every future professional goalkeeper would want to be like him and every team would want someone like him as their backup.
Moreover, just like Ronaldo, he can look back at a fantastic year. Two titles with Bayern Munich and of course the World Cup. If it hadn’t been for Neuer, Germany would have been knocked out in the round of 16 after that nerve-racking face-off with Algeria. In the German Bundesliga, Bayern Munich couldn’t be better off right now as the team possesses an impressive goal difference of 41:4, meaning that they scored 41 times while conceding only 4, thanks to their number 1. And it’s already been 17 match days. Last but not least, Manuel Neuer is more of a team player than Cristiano Ronaldo will ever be.
Finally, there is absolutely no way to justify Lionel Messi being ranked second. Frankly, he shouldn’t have been in the top 3 in the first place. Neither did he lead Barcelona to any titles, nor did he excel at the World Cup. There are many players who would have been more deserving such as James Rodriguez, Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben or Javier Mascherano. Apparently, the “brands” C. Ronaldo and Messi are too ubiquitous after all.
For what it’s worth, at least one goalkeeper was awarded the Ballon d’Or, back in 1963. His name was Lev Yashin, also known as “The Black Spider”, who played for the Soviet Union. Although back then, only European players were eligible for the award which is the reason why for instance Pelé or Diego Maradona have never received the Ballon d’Or. Hence, Manuel Neuer could have been the first goalkeeper to ever be named “World Player of the Year”. Like I said, it would have been a great day to make history.