Friday, June 18, 2021

Ballon D’or – trophy or talent?


tiamin rice


Cristiano Ronaldo has just won his fourth Ballon d’Or award for the world’s player of the year 2016. Very few will doubt that he deserves the award particularly this year. Why?

In 2016 he led Portugal to win their first European Nations Cup title and Real Madrid to their European Champions League and La Liga titles. By the time you are reading this he would most likely have added the World Club title to his chest of trophies for the year.

What stands out even as Ronaldo won all these trophies this year is that everyone can also notice that he has lost a little of the sharpness, agility and speed that made him the most difficult forward to stop only two or three years ago, even though he has not lost his nose for goals and finishing power in front of goal.

Age, undoubtedly, has started to take its toll, slowly and inevitably blunting his edge. It is important to note that Ronaldo did not even play in the final match that gave Portugal the Euro 2016 trophy, and that in the final match of the 2016 Champions Club league against Atletico Madrid, for 120 minutes that the match lasted, he was a passenger on the field, although when he was called up to deliver during the shoot out that gave Real Madrid the trophy he delivered as a true leader. Again, that is the hallmark of a champion – winning even when you play poorly.

Yet, even as twilight beckons in the distance in his incredible career, it is universally agreed that he deserves the coveted crown, in 2016. Why? Apart from his unassailable goal haul in all competitions during the period, his teams won trophies despite his absence in one of the finals, and his less than stellar performance in another.

What this clearly means is that to win trophies and to put up an individual exceptional performance must go together!It is, in my humble opinion, for that simple reason that Lionel Messi was considered less deserving of the 2016 Ballon d’Or award than Ronaldo, even though as an individual he maintained his unsurpassed brilliance, consistency and artistry on the field of play but had no trophies to show.

Comparing the two players year after year since 2007, and selecting who should be the world’s player of the year between them has become a yearly ritual of some sort decided by slim considerations. This year it is about the trophies won ahead of the talent they exhibited.

Comparing Ronaldo and Messi
The two players have a lot in common yet they are also very different in a lot of other ways. Ronaldo is a training machine, a pure athletic specimen, physically developing his strength, power, speed, endurance, sharpness and technique to hone his talent and sustain his high level performance.

Messi is a pure artistic genius capable of effortlessly doing just about anything with the ball at his feet. He is so good that only the failure of winning the World Cup trophy stands in the way of the pronouncement that he is the greatest player in the history of the game!

It is clear, as the case of Ronaldo this year has confirmed, that you do not have to be the best to be the winner of the Ballon d’Or! Just be great and be a part of a winning team!

That is the clincher!
The past decade has been unique in the history of football because of the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

They have a lot in common even though the major difference between them is that Ronaldo is a football technician whilst Messi is a football artist.

They are both goalscoring machines. Give them half a chance and, more often than not, they will bury the ball behind a goalkeeper. They have that intrinsic ability to put the ball away, and their goal scoring tallies, year after year, are clear evidence how prolific they have been.

They can both run at defenders and go past them in a breeze. Both are dead ball experts. Both are leaders in their respective teams without whom the teams play with a lot more difficulty.

Both play in two of the best teams in the world along side some of the world’s best players to compliment them. Both have won all the highest club and continental national trophies, but neither has won the World Cup for their respective countries.

Their uniqueness
Ronaldo is a showman, off and on the field, whilst Messi is almost boringly oblivious to all the glitz and glamour of football around him.

Ronaldo has honed his ability through punishing hard work. Messi does not work as hard to play almost effortlessly.
Ronaldo is right footed and enjoys playing from the left side of attack. In the past year he has been pushed to play further upfront as a central striker in Real Madrid.

Messi is a left footed player that plays freely from the midfield, but mostly down the right flank.
Ronaldo is one of the deadliest headers of the ball in the world.
Messi, although effective also with the head, is too much on the diminutive side to be considered deadly in that department.
Ronaldo can dribble well with the ball but he is surely not in the same class as Messi.

Ronaldo is a natural hunter for goals, probably the best finisher from within the penalty box, always lurking, always looking for open spaces to run into to finish off passes and crosses with a full array of weapons at his disposal – left foot, right foot, head, volleys, half volleys, near post, far post, and so on. Just about any part of his body is a goalscoring weapon. He does not create as many goals for others as he does and scores himself.

Messi is a creative genius, always inventing moves and breaking down defences with his creative passes, dribbles, lobs, crosses, feints, and so on. He scores as many goals as he creates for others in his team.

One sight the world would surely yearn to see one day (and that is never likely to happen) is that of the Ronaldo and Messi playing in the same team!

That would be awesome but not many people think it would be a great combination. I do. My take is that if Messi can play along side Neymar and Suarez in one team, and Ronaldo can play along side Gareth and Benzema in one team, it cannot be far fetched to think that the two greatest football players of this era can play together. What a front line that would be!Meanwhile, let me join the rest of the world in saluting Cristiano Ronaldo, the winner of the Ballon d’Or for 2016.

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