2014 a year that will be remembered by all those passionate football enthusiasts. A year that saw several insurmountable highs and many unfathomable lows. A year that saw Brazil being beaten 7-1 in their own back yard and Manchester United finishing 7th in the EPL. A year that saw Lionel Messi overtaking Raul Gonzales to be the leading champions league goal scorer of all times and a year that saw Cristiano Ronaldo collecting his third Ballon D’or award.

The Ballon d’Or, meaning ‘the golden ball’ was conceived by France Football magazine chief editor Gabriel Hanot who asked his colleagues to vote for their best European player in 1956. Originally journalists could only vote for Europeans playing in Europe but a rule change in 1995 meant that players from other continents could win the award, as long as they played for a European club. The pool of journalists allowed to vote also increased to 96 around the world. Coaches and captains from around the world also voted. It also replaced the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award. Cristiano “CR7” Ronaldo had a majestical year, a year he could do no wrong for his loyal fans.

These days ‘No goal for Ronaldo’ ranks as a news story. No Real Madrid scoreboard looks right unless his name is on it. The expectation that he will score has long since replaced the hope. And this, in a Real Madrid side who were first carried by him after his move from Manchester United, but have now moved into a second galactico era – with CR7 still as the virtuoso.

Real Madrid’s Decima was the crowning glory in Ronaldo’s career in Spain this far, and is more deserving of recognition than another Messi goalscoring avalanche or Neuer’s innovative goalkeeping for Germany.
In that Champions League campaign Ronaldo scored a record 17 times. In La Liga he farmed 31 goals from 30 games. Earlier this year he won Best Forward, Best Goal and Best Player in La Liga for 2013-14. He hardly needs more gongs. Ronaldo’s weeping in victory last year showed how much it meant to him to be seen as a superior player to Messi, however small the margins. Defining himself against the adoration heaped on Messi in previous years has helped drive Ronaldo to the heights he now occupies. His talent is consistently applied. He has forbidden himself from having a quiet night, as if his brilliance has to be stated in every single outing for the world to believe it, or for Ronaldo himself to sleep at night. This restlessness and dynamism asks a lot from the body but his ability to make blasting runs is seldom disrupted by fatigue or injury.

Messi, on the other hand, was always the boy wonder of the tikki taka dream.
He has won the award a record four times, with four players each having claimed it on three occasions: Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and now Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona’s whole style of play and identity were built around him. There was never any question about his role or his political power, as Luis Enrique, the current coach, is learning. Around him were great facilitators: Xavi and Andres Iniesta, mainly. Messi’s development as the new Maradona was smoothly organised and brilliantly fulfilled by Messi himself.

His club side slipped, as a direct result of the little Argentinean wizard’s dip in form; Barcelona failed to win any silverware for the first time since 2008. At the World Cup Messi captained his side and showed glimpses of match-winning brilliance, but looked to be burned out. Despite his lack of sharpness he was able to steer his side to the final in Brazil, but Messi was heartbroken at the last and left to rue his missed opportunity.

The Ballon D’or award itself has some highs and lows. No player has won the award mor than four times. Most of the past winners played for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Manchester United is the only English team to have won the champions league and have a player winning the Ballon D’or award. In 9991 there was no 3rd place winner all three players tied for 2nd. Maradona, Maldini and Bergkam are some great football icons who have never one a Ballon D’or award.

The last 20 Ballon D’or winners
1st Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgarian, Barcelona)
1st George Weah (Liberian, AC Milan)
1st Matthias Sammer (German, Borussia Dortmund)
1st Ronaldo (Brazilian, Inter Milan)
1st Zinedine Zidane (French, Juventus)
1st Rivaldo (Brazilian, Barcelona)
1st Luis Figo (Portuguese, Real Madrid)
1st Michael Owen (English, Liverpool)
1st Ronaldo (Brazilian, Real Madrid)
1st Pavel Nedved (Czech, Juventus)
1st Andriy Shevchenko (Ukrainian, AC Milan)
1st Ronaldinho (Brazilian, Barcelona)
1st Fabio Cannavaro (Italian, Real Madrid)
1st Kaka (Brazilian, AC Milan)
1st Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese, Manchester United)
1st Lionel Messi (Argentinean, Barcelona)
1st Lionel Messi (Argentinean, Barcelona)
1st Lionel Messi (Argentinean
1st Lionel Messi (Argentinean, Barcelona)
1st Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese, Real Madrid)
1st Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese, Real Madrid)

Marvin Walters

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