Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Soccer on the side

It’s either Ronaldo, Messi or Ribery, reports Marwan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Best player on the planet?

Who will be voted the best football player of the year? This is a question that every single football fanatic is asking himself these days. Football experts and pundits say and rightly so that this is the first time in a very long time that we have three candidates with a real chance of lifting the award which is one week from now. In recent years it has been a personal duel between Barcelona’s little magician Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s lethal panther Cristiano Ronaldo. Two months ago everyone said it was between Franck Ribery who won every single trophy with Bayern Munich in 2013 and Messi who won the league with Barcelona. No one thought that Ronaldo who suffered a rare trophy-less season had any chance of winning it. Now, Ronaldo is in the driving seat to lift the prestigious award after leading Portugal to the World Cup in Brazil in astonishing fashion.
First, we start with the Argentine who won it for the last three times and who’s the current holder. Messi could have been the obvious winner for the fourth time in a row but for the injury that ruled him out of action for nearly three months. The little Argentine magician had an unbelievable season last year as he notched an extraordinary 46 league goals, eight Champions League goals, two Cup goals and guided Barcelona to the league title. Messi’s goals and league title are not the only reason he’s being nominated for the award as his astounding performances week in week out for his club and country throughout the year are the main reason for his nomination. The young Argentine mega star rarely puts a foot wrong in a game, rarely plays an average game and even when he does he’s still capable of creating magic from nothing in a split second. The biggest compliment a footballer can receive in his entire career is fans or experts saying he’s better than Maradona who was arguably the best player in history until the arrival of his fellow countryman.
Here are some of the best quotes said about the super talented Catalan:  Arsene Wenger (Coach, Arsenal) - “Who is the Best Player in the World? Leo Messi. Who is the Best Player Ever? Leo Messi!” Wayne Rooney (Man United) – “Messi is a Joke, for me the Best Ever!” Ivan Helguera (ex-Real Madrid) - “For me, Messi is the best player in history.” Aguero (Man City) – “Messi won 3 Ballons d’Or and is competing for another one. He will be the best player in the world until he retires.” Arda Turan (Galatasaray) - “Messi or Ronaldo best player in the world? In the world, I would say Ronaldo. Messi is from another planet.” Van Basten (Ex AC Milan) – “There is no doubt about it; Messi’s clearly the best player in the world. He’s a phenomenon who has already won everything, but is still hungry for more. His humbleness only makes him greater.”
We can go on for years and years talking about what legends in the game and outside the game said about Messi but no better ending than what Maradona himself said about Messi: Diego Maradona – “I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi. Messi is a genius and he can become an even better player.”
The only let down for Messi in his 2013 is the injury that ruled him out for the last three months of the year. If he isn’t named the best player on the planet on 13 January, be sure it’s only because of this injury.
Second, we turn to Ribery who had a simply incredible season where he won every single trophy available with Bayern Munich. 2013 was all about success for Ribery who started with a German Cup medal followed by the league title and finally and most importantly the Champions League title where he assisted in the winning goal to the terrific Arjen Robben.
As if the three competitions weren’t enough for the scary winger, Ribery ended the year with the FIFA Club World Cup winning medal in addition to being named the best player in the tournament to add another personal achievement after also being named the best player in Europe in 2013. Ribery may have not scored as many goals as Messi and Ronaldo but he still managed to notch 10 league goals, three Champions League goals and one cup goal. Moreover, Ribery managed to guide France to the World Cup and in remarkable fashion as they managed to overcome a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ukraine in the first leg to win 3-0 in France thanks to an extraordinary performance from Ribery and his teammates to make sure 2013 will be remembered. Ribery believes he’s got a real chance of winning the trophy this season and some fellow superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez agree with him: “Based on last year’s performances, Ribery deserves to win it [Ballon d’Or] after his incredible treble with Bayern Munich,” Suarez told French radio station RMC. Ribery himself recently joked that his wife already planned where she’s going to put the Ballon d’or in their home.
The final nominee is Portugal’s and Real Madrid’s superstar Ronaldo. Three months ago it was more of a competition between Messi and Ribery as to who’ll be crowned the best player on the planet. However, Ronaldo didn’t give up and didn’t listen to those who ruled him out and managed to end the year in a simply scary form that suddenly put him in the driving seat to win the prestigious trophy. In terms of personal numbers, Ronaldo scored an amazing 34 league goals last season in addition to 18 so far this season, 12 Champions League goals last season in addition to nine this season -- becoming the first player in the history of the competition to score nine goals in the group stage -- seven goals in the cup and two in the Super Cup.
No need to talk more about these frightening figures as it’s pretty obvious that Ronaldo enjoyed an extraordinary calendar year with his club. However, all these figures are not the main reason Ronaldo is considered the favourite to win the award. The main reason for being the favourite is the way he guided Portugal to the World Cup after coming head to head against one of the best players on the planet Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Portugal and Sweden faced each other in the playoffs. Portugal managed to win 4-2 on aggregate (1-0) win in Portugal and then (3-2) in Sweden with the Real Madrid’s fans favourite bagging all four goals of his national team in style. His performances over the two legs persuaded the football world to say that guiding his country to the World Cup in such fashion easily equals Ribery’s trophies and Messi’s mesmerising performances during 2013.
Ronaldo didn’t stop there and started this season with Real Madrid in typically deadly form and is currently leading the scoring charts alongside Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
Many people could argue that Messi’s injury is the main reason Ronaldo is the frontrunner to win the award but Ronaldo’s fans don’t really care. And some of the world’s best players seem to agree that Ronaldo should win the award this year. Above all Argentina’s legend Maradona thinks Ronaldo should win it and not Messi: “Messi has been injured a lot this year. Cristiano Ronaldo should win the Ballon d’Or,” Maradona has commented to Le Buteur. “There are some things Ronaldo can do with a football that make me touch my head and wonder how on earth he did it.” Luis Figo.
“I can honestly say I have never seen such a football creation like Cristiano Ronaldo.” Carlos Quiroz. “There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me.” Best on Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was already chosen by the famous soccer magazine World Soccer as the best player in the world in 2013 with Ribery second and Messi third and it should be mentioned that 13 times out of the last 15 years the player who won World Soccer’s best player on the planet went on to win the FIFA award.
On another note, the three managers nominated for manager of the year are retired Sir Alex Ferguson, Dortmund’s charismatic coach Jurgen Klopp and the now retired Jupp Heynckes.  Sir Alex guided Manchester United to the league title in his last season before retiring, Klopp guided Dortmund to the final of the Champions League where he lost to Heynckes’ Bayern Munich in addition to finishing second in the league once again after Bayern Munich. As for Heynckes this one will be pretty easy for FIFA as the retired coach achieved what only Ferguson and Jose Mourinho achieved before when he won the treble with Bayern Munich in a remarkable year that made the football world regret seeing him quitting the game. There is absolutely no doubt that Heynckes will be crowned as manager of the year.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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