Xavi’s understated brilliance deserves recognition

October 21, 2008

Spain celebrate

The shortlist for the Ballon d’Or got shorter this year, but there was still room for seven members of the Spain squad that restored a bit of faith in football at Euro 2008.

A lot of news reports focused on the big-named absentees, including Thierry Henry, Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldinho, but I don’t suppose too many people would argue for their inclusion after disappointing seasons.

No, the real surprise, and shame, is the absence of Andres Iniesta, to my mind the most skilful of Spain’s little men in midfield. If he wasn’t quite at his best at Euro 2008 he was still better than most and he deserves a place in the top 30.

One thing to consider about the award is the weight given to performances over a season against form shown over a few weeks in the summer.

For many Premier League watchers, it will be hard to see past Cristiano Ronaldo but when Portugal needed him he was outshone by Bastian Schweinsteiger. Again. Where does that leave us?

Xavi won the player of the tournament award at Euro 2008 for pulling the strings in that beguiling Spanish midfield and despite the fact that Barcelona won nothing last season, he would be my choice. It would at least recognise that brilliance can be understated as well as flash.

PHOTO: Xavi joins his team mates to celebrate the matchwinning goal from Fernando Torres in the Euro 2008 final, June 29, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Charisius


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The Ballon D’Or is all a bit confused now anyone can win it rather than European or European-based players as in the past. Now there is little to distinguish it from the FIFA World Player, like England’s PFA or football writers’ awards.
I’d give world player to Ronaldo for being a showman and give Ballon D’Or to a more sophisticated choice like Xabi or probably Messi

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

Given that big tournament wins carry a lot of weight in these popularity contests (do we really need an individual award in what is essentially a team sport?) then it’s likely to be either a Manchester United or a Spain player.

Plenty (far too much) has been said about Cristiano Ronaldo. I agree with the article that not enough emphasis has been placed on players of Xavi’s quality.

And yet, I’d like to add my voice for another relatively unsung hero of Spain’s Euro 2008 campaign: Marcos Senna. A titanic effort in the defensive half of midfield meant that many opposition attacks foundered before they really got going. And he has done an equally admirable job at Villareal, who will hopefully get some recognition this season in their Champions League campaign.

There, I have 5 Real Madrid players to choose from in the shortlist, and I pick one from Villareal? What’s wrong with me? 😉


Posted by Gonzalo @ All In White | Report as abusive

You beat me to it Kevin – 2 words. Andres Iniesta!!!!

What is wrong with the people that compile these lists – and dont get mestarted on some of the names that have made it?!?! I wonder if they just pluck these names off the latest update of their favourite video game…

Posted by Lee@guillembalague.com | Report as abusive

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Hi Gonzalo. I didn’t see enough of Villarreal last seaosn to really comment but you could see at Euro 2008 what a useful player he is. The unsung hero of that team absolutely

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Right, Lee. I’m astonished at Iniesta not being there. The shortlists last year were even worse, I think. http://blogs.reuters.com/soccer/2007/11/ 30/friday-afternoon-question-whos-really -the-best-player-of-2007/
It seemed like the FIFA nominations had just come from the boot manufacturers, but now you mention it, perhaps the video game market had a hand in it as well.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

[…] Giving Xavi his due credit. (Reuters Soccer Blog) […]

Posted by Daily Dose: October 21st, 2008. | The Offside | Report as abusive

Xavi is a great player who is way under glorified. Give him his credit he is an awesome player.


Posted by kovolikessoccer | Report as abusive

Xavi’s understated brilliance deserves recognition…

The shortlist for the Ballon d’Or got shorter this year, but there was still room for seven members of the Spain squad that restored a bit of faith in football at Euro 2008.
A lot of news reports focused on the big-named absentees, including Thierry …

Posted by 52.co.nz | Report as abusive

[…] Kevin remarked that Andres Iniesta should have been included in the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. Lionel Messi, a top contender this year, agreed with him. “Iniesta is missing and I don’t understand why. He is a genius,” Barcelona’s Argentina wizard said this week. […]

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[…] of the King’s Cup final but a three-goal nine-minute burst from Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Xavi helped them to a 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and the first leg of a possible […]

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