Messi’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award is still a victory for team football

January 10, 2011


It’s strange that when 2009 winner Lionel Messi was awarded the combined FIFA Ballon d’Or award on Monday there was shock in the Zurich auditorium and around the globe.

He is clearly the best player in the world but most fans and pundits had expected one of Barcelona team mates and Spain World Cup winners Andres Iniesta or Xavi to take the prize.    

Some might argue that talent has unfairly outstripped team play yet again in the big award but of all the truly great players to have graced the game, Messi is one of a handful who shine because of their understanding with team mates not just their outrageous skill.   

Unlike rugby where the kicker can make a huge amout of difference or NFL where the quarterback is all powerful, soccer really is a team game and that is why skilful workhorses Xavi or Iniesta were widely expected to win.

But the fact three Barca players were the only men on the shortlist is a wonderful achievement for the Catalan club and is yet more proof that the beautiful game is about 11 men combined to create one beating heart, with Messi’s brilliance providing the killer touch.

Without Xavi or Iniesta, Messi would not have become arguably the game’s greatest ever player and the modest Argentine will be the first to thank his friends. His win also breaks the mould of the great and good just voting for whoever triumphed in the big on-field prizes during the year.

Spanish soccer dominated the whole night in Zurich with Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho beating Spain’s Vincente Del Bosque and Barca’s Pep Guardiola to the coach of the year award.

Mourinho is an outspoken maverick who classed himself as the Special One but in winning the treble with Inter Milan in May he showed that the best team does not always possess the very best players or express the very best football.

Instead a togetherness is needed to start the building blocks of success.

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This was taken as a snub in Spain, where they could not believe that Messi beat Xavi and Iniesta to the prize. My own feeling was that Xavi had a pretty good argument, not just for his form this year but as the outstanding midfielder for the last three or four.

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