FIFA Announce Ballon d’Or Shortlist

7 Dec

Were you expecting anything different? FIFA whittled its list of nominees from 23 down to 3 leaving Barcelona’s trio of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi to compete for the prize on January 10th.  For the second year in a row, the Ballon d’Or will remain in Catalunya. It’s hard to argue with the results – Messi having tallied 54 goals this calendar year, Iniesta scoring the winner for Spain in the World Cup final, and Xavi just being Xavi.

The most obvious omission is Wesley Sneijder, who scored five goals during the World Cup to lead The Netherlands to their first ever final. Not to mention arguably the best club season of his career, as he pulled the strings for Inter Milan’s romp to a historic triple. The problem is, who would he supplant?

Sneijder’s 2010 campaign has been flawless. Inter would have never secured three trophies including the Champions League without Sneijder’s vision and lethal play in the middle. His five goals over the summer, in a low scoring tournament, sparked the Dutch squad to unprecedented heights. Iniesta barely played the last half of the season due to injury and arrived in South Africa not fully fit. However, his work with Xavi cannot be underappreciated, even if he hadn’t scored the winning goal.

You could debate this for eternity, and I think you can make an excellent case for Sneijder being a finalist instead of Iniesta. And if you’re really childish, you could rant about the corruption at FIFA and this being another example of it. Or you can exhibit some rational thought and admit that all four men have just as much right to be a finalist as the other. Someone had to be left out, and were it anyone else, we’d be having the same conversation.

But I think FIFA got it right here. Barcelona and Spain would be nothing without the two most important and influential midfielders in the world, and in recent history at that. Messi – well – no need for superlatives here. He’s pretty darn good.

As to who deserves the award? Because of the World Cup performance – that extra star on his armor for commandeering the best team in the tournament to its very first title. Because Barcelona is nothing without his brilliance year in year out. There has never been a time more appropriate than now for Xavi Hernandez to be recognized. With all the flair and arrogance and headlines modern-day superstars possess, Xavi continues to go about his business humbly and quietly. In the process, he has cemented his place as one of the greatest creative, central midfielders in history.

Maybe it wasn’t enough to anchor Guardiola’s Barcelona force, making it the machine it is today.  Maybe it wasn’t enough to conquer one continent with Spain two summers ago. But now, he has conquered the world with his country. It is time to award him for it.

(Photo courtesy of Sport.es)

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