The FIFA Balon D’OR is arguably the most prestigious individual award a player can win, awarded to the best player that year had to offer. Zinedine Zidane, Ricardo Kaka, Ronaldinho, Luis Figo, the list of legendary footballers who have won this award goes on and on. January is soon approaching, and another winner must be named.
Each year, a list of 23 players is chosen as a shortlist for the award, and is eventually narrowed down to a final 3.
Here is this years list of 23 contenders:
Gareth Bale, Wales, Real Madrid
Karim Benzema, France, Real Madrid
Diego Costa, Spain, Chelsea
Thibaut Courtois, Belgium, Chelsea
Angel Di Maria, Argentina, Manchester United
Mario Gotze, Germany, Bayern Munich
Eden Hazard, Belgium, Chelsea
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, Paris Saint-Germain
Andres Iniesta, Spain, Barcelona
Toni Kroos, Germany, Real Madrid
Philipp Lahm, Germany, Bayern Munich
Javier Mascherano, Argentina, Barcelona
Lionel Messi, Argentina, Barcelona
Thomas Muller, Germany, Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer, Germany, Bayern Munich
Neymar, Brazil, Barcelona
Paul Pogba, France, Juventus
Sergio Ramos, Spain, Real Madrid
Arjen Robben, Netherlands, Bayern Munich
James Rodriguez, Colombia, Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, Real Madrid
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany, Bayern Munich
Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast, Manchester City
Of these 23 fine footballers, there are 3 who stand out. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Manuel Neuer. It is extremely probable that these 3 men will end up as the final 3 to win the prestigious award. However, German Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the man who should be taking the prize home this time around.
“The Ballon d’Or tends to go to a player who has performed exceptionally well at the World Cup, someone who won it, so this year it should be for a Germany player. It was always that way until 2010 when Leo Messi won despite having a fairly average World Cup, so nothing is for certain.”
These were the words of UEFA president Michel Platini, and he has a very solid point. If anyone should win the Ballon D’Or, it must be someone who was part of the Germany Squad that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. You might ask then, why not Thomas Müller, top scorer for the German side at the World Cup & winner of the Silver Ball along with Silver Boot? Or Mario Götze, who was the one that scored the winning goal to give Germany it’s fourth world championship. Although Müller is a huge part of the German National Team, and made a good impact at this years competition, he was not as decisive in the later stages of the tournament. Götze did win Germany the whole thing, but otherwise struggled and barely played prior to the final. That leaves Manuel Neuer, who could truly challenge Ronaldo and Messi to win the award.
Cristiano Ronaldo is favored by many to win a 2nd Consecutive Ballon D’Or, which would also be the 3rd of his career. This past season Ronaldo flourished for his club Real Madrid, scoring 31 goals in 31 La Liga games, as well as breaking records, one by scoring 17 goals in 11 games in the UEFA Champions League. Ronaldo played an important role in helping the Spanish Giants finally win “La Decima” or 10th UEFA Champions League in its history as well as capturing the Spanish Copa Del Rey. Ronaldo seemed unstoppable as he scored goal after goal to help Real have a very successful season. However, it wouldn’t be all smiles for Ronaldo by the time the World Cup came around. Portugal had been drawn into what many called “The Group of Death” along with Germany, Ghana, and the United States. Ronaldo had little to no impact in helping his country, as they fell 3-0 to Germany, drew 2-2 with the Americans, and narrowly beat Ghana 2-1. These results would not be enough, as in those 3 games Ronaldo only managed to score 1 goal, and the Portuguese crashed out of the tournament, failing to advance out of the Group Stage.
Lionel Messi, still considered by many to be the best player in the world, and even of all time, is also a favorite to win the Ballon D’Or, which would be his 5th. In the 2013-2014 season Messi bagged 28 goals in 31 La Liga appearances, beaten only by Ronaldo. Although he produced dominant numbers for his team Barcelona, the Catalan and Spanish Club did not have a very good season. They lost the La Liga campaign to Atletico Madrid, who would also knock them out of the UEFA Champions League in the Quarter-Finals. They also lost in the Final of the Spanish Copa Del Rey to arch rivals Real Madrid. However, Messi would turn a poor club season around at the 2014 World Cup. Argentina were drawn into a fairly easy group deemed “The Group Of Life” along with Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovia, and Iran. Argentina were favored to win 1st place in the group and advance easily. They did just that, beating all 3 and advancing from the group with 9 out of 9 points. Messi played an important role in helping Argentina then reach the final, beating Switzerland in the Round of 16, Belgium in the Quarter-Finals, and the Netherlands in the Semi-Finals. He scored 4 goals in 7 matches and picked up the Tournaments Best Player Award, although his country would fall 1-0 to Germany in the final, a game in which Messi made almost no impact and missed the few chances he got that could have won Argentina their 3rd World Championship.
Manuel Neuer, the Germany and Bayern Munich captain is considered by many the best goalkeeper the game has to offer right now. It shouldn’t be wondered why, as the young keeper has won the German Bundeliga, DFB-Pokal, UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, FIFA World Cup, as well as many other competitions all by the age of 28. He has truly won it all and has played a vital role for his team in gaining these accomplishments. In the 2013-2014 season Neuer collected 15 clean sheets and 72 saves in 31 Bundesliga matches, helping them win their 24th Bundesliga Title in record time when they defeated Hertha BSC on the 27th match day of the 34 in a season. They would also win the DFB-Pokal, beating rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final. Although Neur and Co would fall to Real Madrid in the Semi-Finals of the UEFA Champions League, he would play a huge role in helping his country win the 2014 World Cup. Drawn also into the Group Of Death, Germany would face Ronaldo’s Portugal, Ghana, and the United States. They destroyed Portugal 3-0, drew Ghana 2-2, and beat the Americans 1-0. They would go on to defeat Algeria in the Round of 16, France in the Quarter-Finals, and World Cup hosts Brazil in the Semi-Finals. After defeating Argentina in the final, Neuer was awarded the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament award, keeping 4 clean sheets in 7 matches.
Currently the 2014-2015 season is underway. Cristiano Ronaldo has so far netted 18 goals in 10 La Liga matches, while Messi has just 7 in 11. Over in the Bundesliga Neuer has 8 clean sheets and 23 saves, also in 11 matches. Although all 3 continue to perform at an elite level, Manuel Neuer is the rightful owner to the upcoming FIFA Ballon D’Or, for both his great success at Club and Country level, as well as his extremely consisted level of play he’s exhibited the past year, and through out his whole career. He has revolutionized how goalkeeping is played. The dream keeper of any defense, the kind who doesn’t need to be asked to come out of his goal. He’s very decisive and hardly ever misjudges plays the opposition may throw at him, especially in important and clutch moments. A huge example was his punch-clearance against Gonzalo Higuain when they both collided while racing towards a ball in the World Cup final. If Neuer had reacted even a split second later he could have been given a red card with a possible penalty in favor of Argentina.
The number of clear goalscoring opportunities Neuer terminates before they even have a chance to truly start are incredible. No current day keeper can run off his line with the decisive effect and precision that Neuer has. None can accurately throw a ball well past the middle of the pitch. Too often is the brilliance of defensive players overlooked by the fancy plays and goals of attacking players. However, there is the old saying “Offense wins you games, defense wins you championships.” That is exactly what the world class Neuer does. He is the backbone of the championship winning formula Bayern and the German Nation Team have put together. It is time that these defensive masterminds earn the recognition they deserve, and none of them deserve it more than Manuel Neuer.
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