Real Madrid’s loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super…
Cristiano Ronaldo beat out Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer for his 3rd Ballon D’Or career-wise, joining the likes of Lionel Messi, Marco Van Basten, Michel Platini, and Johann Cruyff as the only few players to have won the illusive award three times or more. A strong case could have been made for each of the top three, Ronaldo with his record breaking season, Messi with a strong World Cup performance and decent club performance, and Neuer with his extraordinary goalkeeping abilities that were on display throughout the past year.
Of course, there are those that could have easily been in the running for the top three. However, there are enough performers this past year that there are more than three possible ‘alternate’ candidates. These are the nominees:
A lot can be said about the Uruguayan forward. Plenty of controversies surround the talented forward, however whatever can’t be disputed is his world-class play. His performances for his last season of Liverpool were only bettered by the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, Suarez scored 31 goals and gave 12 assists in 31 apps in the premier league. The Uruguayan virtually made Liverpool a title contender, being the main man amongst Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, and Steven Gerrard. It was scoring, his dribbling, his passing, his movement that made him a menace for English defenses throughout the season. His play saw him move to Barcelona for an astronomical amount of 79 million euros. Truly an elite player now, he of course (unfortunately for him) is overshadowed by the scoring abilities of Messi and Ronaldo.
Perhaps having the strongest case to be part of the final three is the domineering Dutch winger. Having a fantastic season in both club and international level, Robben was frequently the best player, not only on his team, but on the pitch whenever he played. For Bayern Munich, he scored 11 goals and gave 6 assists during the Bundesliga season, as well as 4 goals and 4 assists in the Champions League. He was the forefront of Munich’s offensive firepower, with his signature and predictable, yet unstoppable cutting from the right side ability. He is even on course to better his Bundesliga assists, currently scoring 10 goals and giving 3 assists at the midway point of the season. Of course, his World Cup performance was up there with the best (arguably should have beaten Messi to the Golden Ball award), giving a Man of the Match performance against Spain in the historic 5-1 demolition. It was him and Robin Van Persie that dominated the group stages, yet it was Robben that kept going strong during the knockout stages.
Angel Di Maria
Somewhat of a forgotten figure, Di Maria was perhaps the catalyst in Real Madrid’s successful quest for La Decima last season. It was his drive from midfield that allowed the infamous forward line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale huge amount of space to manipulate around the opposition defense. He scored 4 goals, but gave an astonishing 17 assists in the 2013/2014 La Liga season (being 1st place). He also proved to be fantastic in the Champions League, scoring three goals and setting five. However it was perhaps his performance in the Champions League final in Lisbon, where it was his run and assist to Bale that gave Real Madrid the winner over crosstown rivals Atletico. He played perhaps an unorthodox role, but was clearly the main creative threat in a Madrid team filled with World class names. His World Cup performance, although not as strong as his club performance, also deserves a mention, having scored the only goal against a resolute Swiss team that landed Argentina in the Semi Finals.
Of course, there are more candidates that could have made this list; the likes of Philip Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Diego Costa, and others had blistering seasons that propelled them to the top tier in World Football. However, when all is said and done, it is Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi that continually set a ridiculously high bar in the modern game.