30 November 2012

Who should win the Ballon D'or?

The contenders for this year's Ballon D'or have been announced and Lionel Messi is red-hot favourite to win a fourth consecutive award after scoring 82 goals so far in 2012, just three short of Gerd Muller's record. 

However he has extremely tough competition in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, who have also had wonderful years. This time last year Messi won with 47.88 % of the vote, more than 26% than his rival Ronaldo received. While it could be much closer this time around, the Argentine is still expected to win after breaking the La Liga scoring record with 50 goals last season.

2008 winner Ronaldo scored 46 goals in La Liga himself last campaign, and has 12 already this season. He has taken Spanish football by storm since his arrival from Manchester United, scoring 124 times in just 114 appearances in the top flight. 

Iniesta has replaced Barcelona team-mate Xavi Hernandez in the only change to the 2011 nominee line-up. The diminutive Spaniard prides himself on his passing game and for good reason; his pass completion rate in La Liga last season was 89.06%, compared to the league average of 82.51. He creates a monumental amount of goal-scoring chances for team-mates, as shown by his rate in the final third of 80.59% (league average is just 69.3). 

Ballon D'or nominees since August 2011:

Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Andres Iniesta

Even though the statistics above would suggest a resounding victory for Messi, there are other factors that should be taken into account. Iniesta has some more unbelievable statistics that go relatively unnoticed. In the 2011-12 league season he completed 2075 passes compared to a league average of just 658, as well as already creating 16 goal-scoring chances in this year's World Cup qualification campaign. 

A fact that is often forgotten is that international performances are taken into account for the award and Iniesta and Ronaldo both excelled in Euro 2012. Iniesta was named as player of the tournament as he led Spain to a third successive major title, while Portuguese forward Ronaldo finished as joint top-scorer in Eastern Europe. Messi on the other hand, has scored 12 goals in just 9 games for an Argentina team that many feel rely too heavily on him. This is his best return for the national side after enduring years of criticism for under-performing on the international scene. 

It is clear that this year's World Player of the Year award will be tough to decide, although Messi's record-smashing efforts will surely see him break yet another record in taking a fourth successive award. It is likely that he will pass Muller's record before the year is up and that will just put the icing on the cake for the footballing magician.

Ronaldo has had yet another remarkable year and showed his talents in the 2-2 draw in El Clasico when both he and Messi picked up a brace. Iniesta meanwhile has shown wonderful consistency during a year in which he played a crucial role in his national team's success. 

1. Messi
    2. Ronaldo
 3. Iniesta


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