Voting for the world’s best footballer is an honour and a curse. Unless, of course, you are Jose Mourinho who doesn’t really care because football for him is not about individuals. But then, given his thoughts on being a national team coach he is unlikely to be on the panel choosing one anytime soon. This year, I voted Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar in that order at The Best FIFA Football Awards.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have transformed this award into a unique duopoly so it was a given that they would be in the top two. Ronaldo was No.1 because among these two other-worldly footballers, he won the Champions League and, amid so much talk of international football losing out to inter-club contests especially in Europe, the 2016 Euros.
HIGHLIGHTS | The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony in Zurich
True, Ronaldo limped out of the final in tears and then gathered himself to become an assistant Portugal coach Fernando Santos didn’t know he had. But he had taken Portugal to where they didn’t seem they belonged, especially when trailing Hungary with Balazs Dzsudzsak scoring a double. Ronaldo too got a double, the first an audacious flick off a Joao Mario delivery which fell behind him. He scored again to make it 3-3 and from qualifying as a third-placed team, Portugal went all the way when France got caught in a bind because the rival No.7 was not on the pitch.
En route was that gravity-defying header against Wales which showed that what he did in the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United in 2013 was no fluke. The European championships came soon after a Champions League title where Ronaldo took the last penalty-kick to seal the deal for Real Madrid.
Messi comes second because, well, even in a year he retired, he scored 59 goals. The former West Germany, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid star Paul Breitner had once told HT that for sheer consistency, Messi is the best. He typifies what Socrates, that Brazilian architect of the beautiful game, said: “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.”
The bogey of not winning anything for Argentina got a year older for Messi but he and Neymar, my third choice, won the La Liga. Neymar got my vote ahead of Antoine Griezmann because he helped Brazil win an Olympic gold, their first after finishing runners-up thrice while being under enormous pressure at home. Granted that the Olympics aren’t football’s biggest stage and this was no world champion Germany team but after Belo Horizonte in 2014, Brazil needed succour. And who to provide it but the captain with the winning penalty in front of 78,000 fans at the Maracna after having put Brazil in front in regulation time.
It was happening at home for Griezmann too but though he had a great run, Portuguese substitute Eder who stole the thunder.
Now for the curse. FIFA puts out the votes after the awards night and that sometimes means open season in the social media for a lot of those who don’t agree with your choices. After Meryl Streep reminded the world that disrespect invites disrespect at the Golden Globe awards, I am hoping it would be different this time.