The shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or has been announced, with some interesting inclusions and omissions. John Baines has a look.
Back in July Sepp Blatter triumphantly declared, ‘a new chapter in football’ was born. Fear not, the eccentric Swiss was not rolling out super-sized goalposts, triangular pitches or a robotic referees, instead, he was merely adding hyperbole to the amalgamation of what was essentially the same award anyway.
The separate voting process of the two has also been combined, meaning that International coaches and captains as well as a gathering of the world’s journalists all have a say who now gets the prize. But even with just one gong on offer, and a more simplistic voting system, the shortlist still throws up some curious anomalies.
The official remit is that the nominees are the best players from the year beginning January 1st, always questionable given that all of the 23 man shortlist participate in a league system running from the autumn to spring. The balloting began following the World Cup, meaning the qualification period essentially covers only about half of the year. It’s still a muddled mess, and that shows with some of the names making the cut.
Much has been made of the lack of names from our shores on the list. There are no English players joining the likes of Xavi, Lionel Messi and Wesley Sneijder, and only Didier Drogba and Cesc Fabregas represent the Premier League. 2010 was not a vintage year for English clubs or the national side, and this seems to have tarnished our votes, rather than any significant decline in the individual levels of performance.
To highlight the indifference, Wayne Rooney doesn’t get a mention whereas Miroslav Klose does. From the turn of the year to the end of March, Rooney was unstoppable and had it not been for an untimely injury against Bayern Munich, could have led Manchester United onto a fourth successive Premier League title and a third consecutive Champions League final.
Instead, he’s been overlooked in favour of Bayern’s beanpole striker Klose, who, barring four goals at the World Cup has had a bit of an annus horribilis domestically, scoring just six goals in 38 games for the Bavarians and only once en route to the Champions League final. Poor fare compared to Rooney’s 34 strikes in 44 appearances.
Rooney may have not done himself many favours by flunking in South Africa and being off the boil at the start of this season, but Klose has yet to get off the mark in the Bundesliga so far, and appears to have made the draft on the back of a handful of decent showings which were exposed to a wider media glare.
The same could be said of compatriots Mesut Ozil, who shone for the ‘Mannschaft’ but had little clamour before it, and Thomas Muller who enjoyed a decent season with Bayern, but surely gets the nod for winning the Golden Boot – an achievement not to be discounted, but is not reward for annual endeavours over a sustained period of time.
Clearly getting less than a goal every other game in the Ligue 1 is a strong enough testament to justify Asamoah Gyan’s admission, and Dani Alves, apart from earning another La Liga title with Barca, was by his own admission playing below par and was even left out of Pep Guardiola’s team for a spell.
Reflecting on our own omissions, Carlos Tevez must reflect whether he could have done much more than score 29 goals in 42 games in his debut season for a new club, and there can be few midfielders who matched Frank lampard’s 27 goals and a league and cup double. Lampard’s Chelsea team-mates Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda have been widely recognised as peerless in their positions over the past twelve months, whilst Gareth Bale has excelled to the point he terrorised the European champions on their own patch last week.
Just ask Nick Clegg, you can pick up those oh so important extra votes when it’s deemed fashionable to vote a certain way, which unfortunately means the Premier league is so last season.