Some things in football never change, and it looks as though we’re going to have a familiar face win this year’s Ballon d’Or. It has now officially been announced by FIFA that the three men shortlisted for the final vote are Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. For the past seven years the award has gone to either Ronaldo or Messi, and it will be something of a shock if that pattern changes this year.
The fact that the final three contains two Barcelona players says a lot about the success that the Catalan team have had during 2015, winning an incredible treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Both Neymar and, in particular, Messi, made telling contributions when it really counted. Messi’s 58 goals in 57 appearances was nothing short of spectacular.
Despite Ronaldo scoring more goals in fewer games during the 2014/15 season, Messi is odds on favourite to pick up the award for the fifth time. This is for two reasons. First, although the Ballon d’Or is an individual award to recognise the best player in the world, the player’s achievements as part of his team have to be considered. Because of this, Barcelona’s incredible season and fast start to the current campaign put Messi in the driving seat.
The second reason that Messi is more likely to win is that, simply put, he is more popular. There’s something about Ronaldo’s individualistic character which tends to frustrate those with the power to vote. Yes, he’s a fantastic player, one of the very best we have seen, but must he be so angry when a team-mate scores a goal instead of him? Must he rip his shirt off after scoring an inconsequential goal in a Champions League final just so the footage can be used in his movie? Must he make a movie all about himself? All these things and more serve to alienate Ronaldo from the wider football-watching public, and a more humble character would probably win more individual awards.
Neymar’s entry on to the final three-man shortlist says a lot about the Brazilian’s development into an integral member of the Barcelona team. That the likes of Andres Iniesta, Eden Hazard and Robert Lewandowski were considered less impressive illustrates the level that Neymar has begun to reach consistently.
Messi may well win more than one award come January 11th, as he’s also been nominated for the Puskas award, given to the scorer of the greatest goal during the calendar year. He has been put forward for his mesmerising solo effort against Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.