Soccer

Ballon d’Or reactions: The good and the bad

Messi deserves more respect.

Ah, Ballon d’Or season. Full disclosure, I cannot stand this award. For those of you keeping score, it’s not just because the legendary James Milner doesn’t win it every year (he should!). No, I can’t stand the golden ball because it’s so inconsistent. Granted, they’ve got the top two right since 2008 now, but outside them the alleged “top 30” is madness. Some years it’s a full send on the La Liga lovefest, while in others the picks just don’t make sense.

Further complicating this year’s predictably loony results was the fact that this was a World Cup year. What does that mean, you ask? An overvaluation of some rather underwhelming players. Anyway, I’m sure the list will be debated in pubs, bars, group chats, social media and however many forms of communication people use. I’m here to tell you which ones the “committee” got right, and which ones are wrong.

The Good Decisions

Sergio Ramos, 19th

When I come to power, Sergio Ramos shall be banished from the kingdom of FIFA henceforth. However, at the moment I am in no state to do anything but rant. Good enough for me.

The only reason this ranking can be declared “good” is because he has been so high on the list in previous seasons. Seeing the likes of Roberto Firmino and Paul Pogba- albeit for different reasons- either ahead or equal to the Spaniard is almost too perfect. He’s also 13 spots behind the Mohamed Salah, whom he brutally assaulted on a tragic day. Ramos also failed two drug tests in 2018, but I guess the world forgets about these things when you play for Real Madrid.

Roberto Firmino, 19th

His recent form has been shocking, but the red half of Merseyside, myself included, has been screaming for praise for the bleach-teethed god. Firmino is the key to Jurgen Klopp’s press that oh so nearly snatched the Champions League from the cold hands of Real Madrid. In 2018, he matched his relentless running with a goal total (27) to justify a top-20 ranking. Bonus points for making both John Stones and Ederson look foolish:

In fact, every Liverpool player should be in the top 20. I miss the Ox.

Neymar, 12th

Big ups to FIFA for having the guts to admit that Ney-Ney is nowhere near as good as his rainbow flicks may otherwise suggest. His diving is despicable, and the whole putting-his-team-on-his-back thing hasn’t worked for two World Cups now. He is going to break the internet at least once every game with some earth-shattering move, but at this point Mbappe is the true impact player in the PSG squad. So yeah, good job.

N’Golo Kante, 11th

*Breathes deeply before praising a Chelsea player* FINALLY, this man gets some recognition. The key to Leicester’s improbable title run in 2016, Kante is by far the best signing in recent memory for both Chelsea and Leicester. The issue is, he has such a subtle quality to his game. He’s neither a goalscorer nor playmaker, and doesn’t light up the stat sheet in too many other ways. Historically, FIFA has found it very difficult to give props to players who do the intangibles well. They did that with Kante this year. Well done lads.

Kylian Mbappe, 4th

Spoiler alert: he’s going to be a lot higher than this for the foreseeable future. That said, FIFA got it just about right with this one. In my book, a trio of Messi, Modric, and Ronaldo have all been superior to Mbappe on a consistent basis all year. He, and many a PSG bandwagon fan, may feel hard done by with fourth place, but his time will come. Personally, I forever love him for this:

Thierry Who? (yesiknowhe’saverydifferentplayerbutcalmdownthesearejokes)

The Bad Decisions

Mario Mandzukic, 25th

Wait what? You’re seriously telling me there are ONLY 24 players better than this man in all of football. Every year, there’s a laughable pick that just makes no sense. Congratulations, Mario, you are this years. For context, Mandzukic is the seventh forward- depending on how you define such a thing- on this list. Some of the names ahead of him makes sense (we’re talking true No. 9’s) here: Ronaldo, Kane, Cavani, etc. Those are the elites.

From there, it gets confusing. Forwards omitted from the top 30 that most teams would rather have over Mario: Lewandowski, Icardi, Dybala, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Insigne (maybe.) I get it, World Cup year and all, but he’s not even a top-40 talent. Big love for this, though:

Sergio Aguero, 16th

I’m English and a Liverpool fan, and I still cannot understand why the football universe seems to think that there are 15 better players in the world than this man. Yes, injuries are always an issue but his constant ability to score goals despite terrible hair is incredible. Show him more love, please.

Paul Pogba, 15th

*Prepares to incur the wrath of every Manchester United and France fan in the world.* HOW DID HE MAKE THIS LIST? Anyone who watches soccer, anyone who appreciates it, anyone who admires the hard work midfielders put in every week knows that Paul Pogba is the world’s biggest show pony. He’s lazy, he’s undedicated, he’s slow, and he’s French. 0/4. Also, this:

Lionel Messi, a ridiculous/ludicrous/criminal/horrific 5th

This whole blog has basically been a build up to lamenting what is possibly the worst decision the voters have ever made. Please, in the name of all that is holy, explain to me how there are four better players EVER than Lionel Messi, nevermind this year. I get it, Ronaldo did some cool stuff, and Modric was the engine of an overperforming team at the World Cup. But fifth???? Messi scored 45 goals in 54 appearances last season, and has already bagged 15 this year while playing in a less advanced role and missing almost a month to injury. This is a disgusting decision.

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