Don’t cry for me, Ronaldo. But I think you shouldn’t have won.
“A year in which silverwear counted less than scoring goals against Spanish sides that would never get Premiership football.” I used those words to describe Lionel Messi’s Golden Ball win in 2012. It fits even more in Cristiano Ronaldo’s victory yesterday. The Argentine at least had lifted a not very impressive Copa del Rey when he won the award for a record fourth time. The Portuguese striker got even less with Real Madrid in the last season: nada, nada y más nada.
Of course he is a great player.And his choice is not as shameful a pick as Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 -- just like I said last year. But if Ronaldo had had such a fantastic season he would have lifted at least one trophy. His amazing displays and endless goalscoring skills didn’t help an all mighty Real Madrid challenge Barcelona. And Barça didn’t have Messi on the pitch for quite a while. In the Champions League his Merengues were outclassed by Borussia Dortmund.
Heed this: it wasn’t Bayern Munich, the best team in the world, the winner of every important title they played for in the last season and the best reference for football in years to come. It was Borussia Dortmund. A hip, sexy and lovely side. But still Borussia Dortmund.
“He qualified Portugal to the World Cup all by himself,” some might say. True. But let’s not forget the decisive matches were against Sweden, not a exactly a gigantic rival as the likes of Germany, Spain or Italy. For a player of his level, not coming to football’s creme de la creme would be a gigantic failure. Reaching Brazil 2014 isn’t more of achievement than it is of an obligation, a moral duty to someone as big as him.
If there had been more reason, Messi would have two Golden Ball awards at the age of 26, and not a record four. Ronaldo would have gotten his second last year -- at least he had won the Spanish league. A Bayern Munich player would win this year, although Arjen Robben in my opinion is a better pick than Franck Ribéry. Silverwear is much more tangible for the success of a player, and if that counted for the Golden Ball it would put things under a different perspective.
As of now, you can only be the world’s top footballer if your name is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. It doesn’t matter if your season ended in more titles. No one is allowed to beat the two, even if it is briefly. It is true football shouldn’t be all about silverwear, but neither should it be about marketing pressures that disregard everyone else, no matter how successful they are in a season, because the two geniuses can’t be left out of the top. That’s the case since 2008.
In 2010, Wesley Sneijder took Holland to the World Cup final and was the maestro for Inter Milan’s Champions League title. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta became world champions for Spain. The Argentinian crashed out of the European Cup with Barcelona in the semi finals and saw his side be trashed by Germany 4-0 in football’s finest tournament. Yet he won. Last year, Messi couldn’t score in the two most important matches of the season. Yet he won.
In 2013, Ronaldo scored only once against Dortmund in the two matches for the Champions League semifinals. Polish star Robert Lewandowski scored four times. In the second leg at the Bernabeu, our crying boy was nullified by the German defense. At the Spanish league, he wasn’t the top scorer: it was Messi with 46 goals - Ronaldo had 34. If it were for what the Portuguese had achieved in 2012-2013 he shouldn’t even be among the top three. Yet he won.
Ronaldo and Messi are players that will live forever, regardless of the number of Golden Balls they win. Now it is basically a trophy a player gets through a voting strategy, friends all over the world and, of course, great football skills. It could be a bit of a joke, no one can really measure class at that level. But both the Portuguese and the Argentine are taking it too seriously -- as captains for their national teams they ridiculously didn’t vote one another.
It would much fairer to give that award to players who, at least for one year, got results that put them in that very narrow space the between the two Gods of football in mount Olympus. Perhaps what great players like Ribéry need is to single handedly win a World Cup, the Champions League and the national league in the same season. Something unprecedented.
But even if that happened, somewhere in Thailand, Vanuatu or Fiji, a coach and his capitain would still go for Ronaldo and Messi in the Golden Ball election. After all, they are not voting for the player who had the best season. They will still bel voting for the best player overall.
And that is plain wrong.
Mauricio is a Brazilian football writer and you can visit his excellent blog here. Follow Mauricio on Twitter, @MSavarese.