The nominees for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or have been announced this afternoon, and alongside the two very obvious names in contention for the men’s award is a player that is comparatively less so.
Goalkeepers are often remembered as much for their mistakes as they are by great performances, so it’s to Manuel Neuer’s immense credit that he has been voted by so many of FIFA’s international media representatives and member associations’ national team captains and head coaches. The likes of Dino Zoff and Oliver Kahn have previously been nominated but Russian icon Lev Yashin remains the only keeper to have ever won the award back in 1963, and so even though Neuer won the Golden Glove for his commanding displays in Germany’s World Cup-winning run this summer, it would be a pleasant surprise if he got the nod ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Five of the last six Ballon d’Or years have essentially been a straight tussle between those other two 2014 nominees, with Lionel Messi winning four years in a row before Ronaldo took the crown last time out. The Portuguese forward has had another sensational calendar year, helping Real Madrid to their long-awaited ‘la decima’ with eight goals in the Champions League knock-out stages, including a penalty in the final. With over thirty league goals in 2014, Ronaldo is destroying all in his path domestically, though he may lose points for the display of he and his country display at the World Cup The expectations for the Portugal skipper to carry his nation in Brazil were unrealistic but the manner in which they limped out at the group stages reflected badly on everyone and by the time he showed more of that talismanic form that helped them qualify, Portugal were already eliminated.
The same cannot be said for Lionel Messi, who despite a relative lack of domestic glory this year was sensational as the Argentina captain and led them all the way to the World Cup final. The Golden Ball award at the tournament was a hollow win for the Barcelona man having got so close to the pinnacle of world football, but the manner in which he pushed his nation through to the final will stand him in great stead for the Ballon d’Or. As will, of course, his club form: Barcelona missed out on the La Liga title on the final day of last season, but without Messi’s twenty goals between January and May they would not have come close. It’s been another ten strikes in the league already this season, while in Europe we have seen Leo first to break Raul’s all-time Champions League goalscoring record ahead of Ronaldo, so he is expected to run close with his Real rival once again.
The men and women FIFA Ballon d’Or winners will be announced in a special ceremony in Zurich on January 12th, along with other awards such as the FIFPro World XI, Coach of The Year and Puskas Award. Each player has a real chance for differing reasons, so who do you think will take the prize?