The Ballon d’or nominees have been announced and, as usual, everyone has opinions on them. Even the nominees themselves. Neymar thinks Cristiano Ronaldo should have been left out and Luis Suarez should have been included, Cristiano thinks Lionel Messi will win, and Messi probably thinks they should all skip the Ballon d’Or gala and go to Legoland instead.
None of these men deserve the award, though. So, without further ado, let’s get to pointing out the failings of these magnificent athletes.
First, the favorite. Lionel Messi led Barcelona to another treble last season, scored an ungodly amount of goals, and helped Argentina to a second consecutive major cup final that Gonzalo Higuain once again ruined for him. That’s all fine and good (except for the Higuain part).
However, in the weeks he spent injured this season, something curious happened: Barcelona continued to play well, losing just one of nine matches without him. Luis Suarez and fellow Ballon d’Or finalist Neymar emerged as La Liga’s two top scorers and Sergio Busquets even said that “without Messi, all the players have taken a step forward.” Granted, he also said that Messi is “the best player in the world and our star,” but he probably just said that so Messi wouldn’t cry.
Cristiano Ronaldo is often accused of maximizing his personal success instead of making his teammates better, but could Messi inadvertently be doing that as well? Is this really what’s supposed to happen when you don’t have the year’s best player? If the best player in the world this year gets hurt, his team is supposed to get worse, not better. That’s indisputable logic at its most simplistic.
Since his return, Messi has resumed scoring goals as Neymar and Suarez continue to lead the team by doing so in bunches. In their recent 4-0 win over Real Madrid, Suarez scored twice, Neymar once, and Andres Iniesta added one too. Messi came off the bench when Barca already had the match won. In essence, he’s become Barcelona’s third wheel. A four-time Ballon d’Or winning tag-along. The friend you invite just so they can get out of the house and take pictures of you and your significant other for Instagram.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 48 goals in 35 La Liga matches last season were enough to win him the European Golden Shoe — an award many seem to think has the exact same criteria as the Ballon d’Or (as last year’s third-place finisher Manuel Neuer will tell you, it’s definitely not clean sheets…or World Cups won). That, however, is pretty much all Ronaldo has won this year. Real Madrid went without a trophy last season, getting Carlo Ancelotti sacked, and they haven’t improved this season under Rafa Benitez, which has contributed to Cristiano’s scoring rate tailing off a bit (though it’s still at about a goal per game in all competitions).
That’s all the superficial information, though. What really matters is that Cristiano can’t even convince his own son to like him more than Messi and you can’t be considered the best player in the world for the year if your own son likes one of the other finalists more than you. Also, he failed to beat The Rock’s Guinness World Record for most selfies in three minutes. That’s too big a failure to ignore in Ballon d’Or voting.
As previously stated, Ronaldo has already said that he thinks Messi will win, so he’s resigned himself to missing out on his third straight Ballon d’Or and fourth overall. But don’t feel too bad for him because he is the only Ballon d’Or finalist to have an official documentary made about how great he is this year and that should be sufficient ego fuel. For now.
Finally, there’s Neymar. Now, since he helped push Messi to third-wheel status at Barcelona and is arguably playing like the best in the world at the moment, that should mean that he is the most deserving of the Ballon d’Or, right? Wrong.
As we all know, Neymar legally died in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. His teammates paid tribute to him, his country mourned him, he was treated like a dead person. And dead people can’t win Ballon d’Or awards. They just can’t. I don’t know if it’s formally stated in the rules or not, but it should be. Ghosts can do a lot of cool things, but they can’t win awards for living, physical beings. So that eliminates Neymar from contention right there.
Someone has to receive this award, though. And since none of the actual nominees deserve it, we have to look beyond the official selections. Thankfully, when we do that, a clear choice emerges: United States attorney general Loretta Lynch.
Last year I argued that FIFA president Sepp Blatter was most deserving of the award for brazenly maintaining his undisputed power over one of the world’s largest crime syndicates despite heavy international scrutiny. Well, this year, Loretta Lynch played a leading role in finally changing that as she drove the investigation that brought a growing number of indictments, forced Blatter to stand down despite winning reelection in May, and, along with Swiss authorities, built criminal charges that prompted FIFA to suspend Blatter, general secretary Jerome Valcke, AND the favorite to succeed Blatter as president, Michel Platini.
This is this far more impressive than any number of goals scored or competitions won. And to prove that they’re serious about reform, FIFA could even make Sepp Blatter present her with the award as his final act for the organization. It would be one of the great moments in football history. This needs to happen.