Get your pitchforks ready, it’s almost time for the Ballon d’or voting. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fanboys are preparing for verbal warfare on Twitter, while the rest of us sit back and watch the fallout. There are plenty of good candidates this year, but it can only go to one man – and that man should be Lionel Messi.
This year there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the award and whether or not it could finally be handed over to someone other than Messi and Ronaldo? It would be a welcome break for some – it’s been ten years since it was won by a player not named Lionel or Cristiano. But there’s good reason for that, and even better reason to suggest the award should once again go to the Argentinian.
For starters, Messi’s statistics. 42 goals and 20 assists in the calendar year. This is the kind of attacking output that we will never see again once he and Ronaldo both retire.
Just because these stats have become normalised to a certain extent doesn’t mean they should go unnoticed, these are freak numbers that simply aren’t replicated by any other player, and will never be replicated either.
Away from stats, what about how the game changes when he’s on the pitch? The entire dynamic of a game switches when ?Messi is on the pitch, and for the best comparison, a quick shift of focus to the NBA is required. When Stephen Curry plays for the Golden State Warriors, there’s so much anxiety around his ability that he acts as a magnet for opposition players, fear of his scoring means spaces open up for his teammates.
A similar thing happens with Messi, and it’s almost entirely unique to the Argentine within the footballing world. When Messi is on the pitch, the opposition is required to double up on him, creating mismatches and overloads all over the pitch. Messi doesn’t need the ball to effect the game, simply the knowledge of what he’s capable of creates headaches for opposing teams.
The main criticism of Messi will inevitably be his performance at the World Cup with Argentina, but football is a team sport – and there can be no doubting that the Argentina squad that went to the World Cup was ridiculously top heavy.
The argument that Messi is only able to do what he does because Barca’s team is built around him is not only ludicrous, it’s a double standard. Was Mohamed Salah only able to have such a prolific year because Liverpool’s pressing and counter attacking style was perfect for him? Did Cristiano Ronaldo only have another brilliant year because Real Madrid made him the focal point of everything they did? And did Luka Modric’s year only stand out because he was lucky enough to be surrounded by world class talent in Madrid, or because Croatia had an easy route to the World Cup final?
See how these arguments seek to minimise the achievements of successful players? They ignore incredibly important facets that make up an individual player’s year; don’t fall into the trap of believing them.
Instead, trust what you see and the stats you have in front of you. Lionel Messi has once again shown that he is the best player in the world, his side did the double in a supposedly disappointing year and individually he was once again unstoppable. To those hoping for a different Ballon d’Or winner, come back next year.