Clubs, Real Madrid

Ballon D’or: Victorious Cristiano and the ceremony’s lack of recognition for other players

Without a shadow of a doubt Cristiano Ronaldo deserved the Ballon D’or for his efforts this Cristiano Ballon D'or 2014past year – everyone knows that, except there is one issue that grinds my nerves: there is so much bias in the footballing world, and the media plays such a huge role in both that, and in picking the winner, that the true meaning and expectation of a Ballon D’or is somewhat screwed up. What I mean by that is this: There is no science to how the Ballon D’or winner is selected, and while I suppose there can’t be, it still hurts me to see how much of an affect an individual’s goal scoring record, media attention, and media speculation can affect the outcome… There is so much emphasis put on the La Liga title race, the feud between Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate, that much of the world forgets about other players, and leagues (and how effing competitive the Bundesliga and Premier league are).

Let me put it to you this way, if I were to decide on the top three best players in the world last year shortlist, I would no doubt put Diego Costa and/or Toni Kroos on that list (and probably take out Messi)…  Costa won La Liga last year, lead his team to the Champions Cup final, and scored a hell of a lot of goals. Kroos won the Bundesliga and the German league with Bayern, and the World Cup with Germany. And,  as we all know, Messi didn’t win anything, but he did make it to the finals in the World Cup (and scored a lot of goals last year)… As well all know, Cristiano won the Champions league, the Spanish Cup final (which he didn’t play in), and scored a hell of a lot of goals.

The question that remains though, is this: how do you set yourself apart from the rest of the pack when you’re not in a position to score a lot of goals? Clearly it’s not win? Because, if you win, the guy that scores all the goals is still going to be crowned the Ballon D’or Champion. It’s kind of messed up, isn’t it?

I’m of the opinion that too many players aren’t garnering the love, respect and admiration that they deserve in this age of football. Unless you possess the flash, flair, goals, and more importantly: the media intrigue, you will never really be crowned the best player in the world. Again, let me reiterate, I think Cristiano deserved it this year, but there needs to be new metrics for measuring the success of and impact of other players on the field like the midfielders and defenders in the world, and how they contribute to the success of everyone around them. It’s sad that over the last couple years, the media has dramatized a feud between Messi and Ronaldo, rather than marveled at the fact that Manuel Neuer revolutionized his position, becoming the first of his kind as a sweeper keeper.

All that being said, I could be completely wrong on this Ballon D’or debate. In other words: perhaps Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in fact just that much better than everyone else in the world and perhaps historically it’s been an award that’s given to attackers — But, if that’s the case, then they should have a best player award for each position, and I don’t mean individual position, I mean one goalkeeper, one defender, one midfielder and one attacker. Fifa, the media, and the world would eat up the intrigue involved in three separate awards. Furthermore, players like Neuer, Kroos, and Lahm would get the recognition that they truly deserve.

Such a system would motivate younger kids to be the “best defender in the world,” rather than have a whole generation of young players obsessed with being on the pitch as attackers – which would be awesome, because I don’t think their are that many pure defenders anymore, something I discussed this blog post about Carlos Puyol last year.

Anyways, let me know if you agree through taking part in the poll below 🙂


Holland, World Cup

Robben Mexico’s hopes… Does Robben deserve the Ballon D’or?

The Dutch’s two year pursuit of redemption after a terrible Euro campaign seemed in vain. 86 minutes in, down a De Jong pic for bloggoal, and unable to penetrate Mexico’s taught lines, the Netherlands seemed on the verge of an early trip home. Then came Sneijder’s kick, a bullet to the left side of the net; the yellow card against Marquez, and Huntelaar’s penalty shot.  Ten minutes from desolation, the Dutch reversed course and launched a party in the The Hague that will last throughout the night.

That said, it should be realized that while the Dutch won, they weren’t very convincing… When Nigel De Jong exited
the game, their formidable three center-back defensive scheme became quite shaky, and Giovani Dos Santos took full advantage with a beautiful individual effort (and when he was taken out of the game, I was quite surprised).

For the Netherlands, many lessons can be learned from this game, beginning with the fact that their back three should never play without a player like De Jong in front of them, and… Dirk Kuyt is a terrible right wingback…

Van Persie pic for blogBut anyways, although they performed extremely well in their first three games, the Dutch looked shaky today – after Mexico scored their first goal, their attack dropped back slightly and the Dutch were left with the ability to control more possession from within their opponent’s half – and quite frankly, they didn’t seem to have the ability to take advantage of that situation. Their first goal today was the result of set-pieces blunder on Mexico’s part, and their second goal came from the penalty spot… The Dutch won’t get so lucky when they play better teams, and Robben will no longer get the calls in the box that he expects – that’s why the Dutch must learn to rely on forms of offense other than the counter-attack and set-pieces.

Furthermore, I didn’t understand why Van Persie was substituted for Huntelaar (despite Huntelaar’s header pass to Robben pic for blog
Sneijder for the tying goal): Van Persie is a player that needs to be on the field at all times, especially in a Dutch system that relies so much on the attacking three that he, Sneijder and Robben make up. Huntelaar is a great player, but if world class Van Persie is struggling to get going, I’d find that Huntelaar would also have a lot more trouble finding a rhythm – especially as he hadn’t played in the previous three games.

If the Dutch can continue to win, I’ll shut up, but after today’s performance, and De Jong’s injury, I see them having a hard time advancing much further as the competition gets better. That said, I still look forward most to seeing how teams defend Robben moving forward, and how he responds. The World Cup stage has proven to be a place where players can make their careers, break their careers, and transform from world class stars, to world class legends. If Robben continues his fantastic form, he could win the Ballon D’or, and right now if the World Cup were to end today, he’d deserve it.




Real Madrid

Real Madrid finally got it right… La Decima… And Ronaldo can get his third Ballon D’or

Carlo Pic
Real Madrid finally found a suitable formula this year, and it’s been so unconventional that it’s somehow become practical… To start, Carlo Ancelotti has been exactly what Ronaldo’s needed, a manager with a calm demeanor that has never gotten too full of himself to take away the spotlight from his number 9. And, the other thing that they got right – Gareth Bale – a player that shines in big games where Ronaldo does not…

Whereas Ronaldo seems intimidated and swept away by being on center stage (despite the fact that he loves to be there) during huge matches, it seems Gareth Bale is intrepid and thrives off it. He veins are ice cold and he never seems taken aback by the fierceness that comes with a big match.

… Back to Ancelotti, his starting lineup this year draws some comparisons to Barcelona’s over the better part of the past decade… Di Maria acts like Iniesta, weaving his way through defenders from center midfield to help start attacks, and sometimes finish them. Modric is like Xavi, he can make the right passes and knows when to join the attack and stay back with Alonso. And, Xabi Alonso (who I believe has been their most solid player this year, despite his somewhat long injury absence this campaign) is a jewel in front of Ramos and Pepe – his positioning, attentiveness, and awareness are absolutely outstanding. Let me put it this way, Sergio Busquets (who plays a similar role with Barca, and I think is massively overrated) has nothing on Xabi Alonso…

Let me repeat myself, Real Madrid finally got it right – and this has huge ramifications on their fiercest rival and counterpart Barcelona, specifically, their gem, Leo Messi. Real has a team that’s young enough to shine for at least the next five years. Barcelona’s needs a complete overhaul, Xavi should not start anymore (Barca can’t run their attack through him anymore), they need someone with more attacking pop. In other words, they need to transition to a system of attack with faster buildup… Neymar doesn’t thrive in a system that appreciates possession like Barca’s, in fact, I’d venture as far to say that if Neymar were to be on Real, and Bale on Barca, Neymar would have excelled just as much (if not even more) this year. Furthermore, Messi is only 26 years old, he needs to be part of an attack that emphasizes speed, and some semblance of the counterattack, instead of a pure possession. I know these guys are all long shots, but Barca need to buy someone like Reus, Lucas, Bernard, or Julian Draxler… and they never should have let Thiago move to Bayern… But let’s move on… Real Madrid’s success this year has huge consequences on the football world… Specifically on Leo Messi…

First of all, Ronaldo is probably the happiest man alive at the moment… He knows better than anyone whatRonaldo Pic the Le Decima means… yes, that’s right, another Ballon D’or… Which of course can be solidified with a great performance at this summer’s World Cup… The only thing standing in his way, and perhaps his worst nightmare, would be for Argentina to lift the World Cup. That said though, I do believe that if Diego Costa shines this summer, he could also be a huge contender for the Ballon D’or next year as well… But anyway…

Ronaldo’s stats this past campaign have been nothing short of miraculous, 51 goals in 47 appearances vs. Messi’s 41 goals in 46 appearances (in all competitions)… Ronaldo scored 17 of those goals in the Champions league alone, a record that he now holds over Messi. Here’s the interesting part that needs to be emphasized: For the first time in forever Ronaldo is holding his own destiny in his hands… In other words, this year will not be one where he has to wait for Messi to slip-up or get injured in order to get crowned his third Ballon D’or, but rather he must maintain his current form to reach that success – and all signs point to him doing just that.

Bale PicThe additions of Carlo Ancelotti and Gareth Bale couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in Ronaldo’s career, and they couldn’t be more perfect fits. As previously stated, Ancelotti is calm, and he lets the players be themselves – unlike Mourinho, Ancelotti could give two damns how vain his players are and how often they stare at themselves in the mirror. In addition, Mourinho gives off a sense of knowing better than anyone and everyone else, Ancelotti does not – and this does wonders in the Real Madrid dressing room… this allows them to focus on one and only task – winning football matches… In other words, when you have players like those on Real, that already possess swagger, you don’t perpetuate or challenge their sense of entitlement with a manager that has more swagger (Mourinho), and that, my friends, is why Ancelotti was successful this year – he let the players be themselves, he treated them like adults, and he listened to them rather than assuming he knew better than them. No better example is when Real wanted to sell off Di Maria with the idea that it would help finance the purchase of Bale… Ronaldo requested that Di Maria stay and Ancelotti (and Perez) listened… and now Di Maria is a starter.

Ancelotti is a magician, he didn’t show any excitement or get ahead of himself when Bale scored the tying goal against Atlético Madrid this past weekend… he remained calm and collected, and because of that, so did his team… 

Now, only two questions remain: who do you believe has been Real’s most valuable player this campaign? … And at which position should Real Madrid strengthen this summer?  Take a second to answer the poll questions below and in the comments section please let me know which player (at the position you answered in the poll question) should be bought.