Democracy is perhaps the most flawed form of government available, because it’s subjected to the will of the majority, no matter how marginal the absolute majority be. Some will always feel ignored or worse, wronged. At present there’s a debate going on whether Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo would’ve been a more worthy recipient of football’s most prestigious individual award – the FIFA Ballon D’Or, instead of FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
According to various members of the media, FIFA lost all credibility when ‘they’ crowned Lionel Messi as the world’s finest footballer for a record fourth time in a row, surpassing Michel Platini’s record of three awards in the process. FIFA, football’s governing body didn’t actually elect Lionel Messi as the best footballer in the world – his peers, national managers and selected journalists did. The majority of eligible voters felt that the diminutive Argentinean had earned enough credit to justify another award ahead of his fellow nominees Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta. Hence the criticism leveled at FIFA is unwarranted and quite frankly ridiculous.
Cristiano Ronaldo would’ve made a fine recipient but he didn’t accumulate enough votes to receive football’s most coveted individual trophy. Lionel Messi, however, makes a great winner, a deserving one at that. La Pulga may have come short on a collective level with FC Barcelona and didn’t participate with Argentina in an international tournament, but then again, that’s not necessarily the criteria, is it?
Winning major trophies with club and country sure factors into the decision-making, but it can be argued that in the past the discrepancy in talent and respective individual exploits of the finalists was in some cases minimal.
In 2012 Lionel Messi’s individual achievements elevated him into a class of his own. Lionel Messi has no equals. Though the Copa del Rey was the only piece of silverware he captured in the last calendar year, he obliterated records left, right and center from January through December.
The 2011/12 season proved to be exceptionally productive for the FC Barcelona forward as he scored 79 and created a further 38 goals for his teammates in 69 games for club and country. His overall goal-ratio for that particular season stands at 1.15 goals per game, while his record as creator puts world-class playmakers to shame, with 0.55 assists per game. Statistically speaking he did both, scoring AND creating a goal every other game. In comparison Real Madrid’s Mesut Özil, often lauded as football’s finest creator-in-chief, provided 35 assists in 57 games for club and country to a ratio of 0.61 assists per game. Lionel Messi is essentially a two-in-one combination, creator and finisher rolled up in one tiny Argentinean.
If individual brilliance is the sole criterion upon which to select the FIFA Ballon D’Or winner, then Lionel Messi is, hands down, the only worthy recipient. Some go out of their way to argue that Cristiano Ronaldo had it slightly more difficult than his Argentinean counterpart due to FC Barcelona’s established philosophy, the La Masia academy etc.
Frankly, this argument holds no water. It’s ridiculous. Granted, this may very well be the best FC Barcelona side of all-time, perhaps even the greatest side in football ever. But, Real Madrid has also assembled the most expensive squad in the history of the sport.
Since July 2009, when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the Spanish capital, through August 2011, Real Madrid has spent €405,000,000 on new recruits (€299,500,000 net after deducting the outgoing transfers). Los Merengues acquired the best talent money could buy. It’s safe to assume that all these acquisitions measure up to a certain standard. To imply that Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t have a world-class supporting cast to rely upon and aid him is preposterous. When one invests in excess of €400,000,000 a trophy or two is the bare minimum in return one can expect on their outlay, isn’t it?
If Ronaldo played for, say, Atletico Madrid it would’ve been another story altogether. But the man dubbed CR7 is employed by the self-styled ‘best’ club in the world. Come award season the song starts to sound a little different.
Sure, Ronaldo has also played in the Premier League, but for Manchester United who made the Champions League Finals three times in the last five years. Hardly an underperforming squad he had to drag all the way on his own.
To end the Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi debate, the Portuguese is the best of the rest.
At the age of 25 Lionel Messi has already won 5 domestic league titles, 2 Spanish Cups, 4 Spanish Super Cups, 3 Champions League trophies, 1 Olympic Gold medal with Argentina, 2 FIFA Club World Cups with club and country.
Individually he’s the youngest and only player in history to have won 4 consecutive Ballon D’Or awards (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), is tied with Gerd Müller for most European Cup top scorer awards with four (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), became La Liga’s top scorer (Pichichi) and European Boot winner (or Golden Shoe) twice (2010, 2012), established a new La Liga record for goals (50) and hat-tricks scored (8) in a single campaign, longest scoring streak in La Liga 10 games (along with Ronaldo and Mariano Martin). He’s also the only person who has ever scored 5 goals in a single Champions League match (against Bayer Leverkusen in 2011/12). He is joint record holder for most goals scored in a single Champions League campaign with 14 (2011/12). Furthermore, he’s no. 4 in the all-time scoring table of the UEFA Champions League, and highest ranked of players still active. His current tally stands at 56 goals with Raul’s record of 71 goals within reach inside the next 18 months. Messi has also the best goal to game ratio in the Champions League era with 0.76 goal per game (gpg). The next highest inside the all-time Top Ten belongs to Ruud Van Nistelrooy with 0.68 gpg, while the closest of active players is Cristiano Ronaldo with a ratio of 0.52 gpg. In addition he holds the distinction of having scored the most international goals (club and national team) in a calendar year (25 in 2012). The icing on the cake is the demolishing of Gerd Müller’s 40-year old record of 85 goals inside a calendar year, which Lionel Messi smashed by 6 with 91 goals in 2012.
Just as a reminder, Lionel Messi is just 25 years old, meaning he has yet to enter his peak years and should be able to carry-on until he’s 30 at the very least. If Cristiano Ronaldo is his closest rival, the records Lionel Messi has and will establish over the next few years will be out of reach for anyone once he retires. Personal preference and sentiment aside, the numbers suggest that he’s already the best player of his generation, perhaps of all-time.
At present Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona is on track to at least reclaim La Liga from archrivals Real Madrid, is well-positioned for success in the Champions League and cruised to the next round of the Copa del Rey.
As of today, Lionel Messi has aided club and country with 37 goals and 10 assists while Cristiano Ronaldo has 30 goals and 7 assists this season. Unless the latter leads Real Madrid to a tenth Champions League trophy, Lionel Messi remains a lock for a fifth consecutive Ballon D’Or and fourth European Best Footballer award (the original Ballon d’Or); his teammate Andres Iniesta spoiled the award season by claiming the latter due to his outrageous feats in the 2012 European Championship.
Before Lionel Messi exploded onto the scene, the records he broke were spread amongst a dozen or so players. It speaks volumes of his talents when he evaporates and collects these records that, in some cases, have stood for decades, under his moniker.
Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.
To quote Tina Turner “Simply the best”