[OP-ED]: Ronaldo Wins An Indivualist Golden Ball
As every season, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi amazed the planet with their beautiful game. But maybe this year, both did not match expectations at the very last moment. It is true that Ronaldo ended up winning the Champions League for Real Madrid and the first ever Eurocup with Portugal, but he performed poorly in the Champions League final and had to leave early the continent’s championship contest injured. In the other side, Messi led FC Barcelona once again to La Liga’s title, but the Catalan squad was eliminated by Atlético de Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and could not finish his jinx with Argentina. Playing for his country, Messi lost again the Copa America’s final to Chile in a penalty kick series in which Leo even missed his shot.
Now, analyzing their direct opponents, it was hard to find a big challenge for them. Luis Suárez and Neymar were opulent troupes for Messi at Barça. Gareth Bale is improving his game at Madrid, but he still moved in Ronaldo’s shadows. Maybe the most dangerous threat was Antoine Griezmann, who led the Eurocup in scoring. Anyway, the French striker lost the two big finals he played with Atlético in the Champions League and France in the continent’s nations tournament.
At the end, Real Madrid’s 11th European Cup and Portugal’s first continental championship were more than enough for Ronaldo to win the Golden Ball. Of course, Messi was second. Two athletes have never dominated so clearly the sports picture. The Portuguese won this year his fourth Golden Ball and now only trails the Argentinean by one. In the last nine years, one of the two has always won it. In fact, in eight of those nine occasions, Messi and Ronaldo have been the top two players in the Golden Ball standings. Before these two geniuses appeared no one had won the trophy that acknowledges the World’s best soccer player more than three times.
One of the most ironic things of this period that almost covers two lustrums is that the balloting has shifted to reward more the individual than the collective aspect of the game. This is probably a mirror to the individualistic society we are experiencing nowadays. Today, in the soccer world –regardless of what Ronaldo says- individual accomplishments are rewarded well over team achievements
Do you want a proof of it?
The answer is in the Golden Ball balloting of 2010 and 2014. In the first one, Spain had won the World Cup but the country’s star midfielders, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández, only flanked Messi in the trophy podium. In the second one, Germany had become the first European National Team to win the World Cup in the American continent. Anyway, the country’s top contender, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, was only third in the Golden Ball run.
Did Ronaldo deserve to win the 2016 Golden Ball followed by Messi? Of course, but I would love soccer awards turning 180 degrees to reward more the collective than the individual effort. Because, at the end, we are talking about a team sport, aren’t we?