It’s that time of year again when the big debate kicks off as to who is the greatest footballer on the planet. The 23-man shortlist for the prestigious World Player of the Year was announced early on Tuesday morning, with the winner to be unveiled on January 13 in Zurich. Will this be the year that sees Lionel Messi’s sensational run of 4 consecutive wins come to an end? Here is Sat In Row Z’s run down of the contenders. Please feel free to vote for your winner at the end of the article, we will announce our winner before it is officially awarded.
Messi of course heads the list and perhaps for the 1st time in 5 seasons, he is at threat of being displaced as the main man. Despite a slow start to the current season, perhaps people have forgotten that the mercurial Messi scored 46 goals on the way to Barcelona winning the 2012/13 league title. For me, he is still the greatest player on the planet.
His archnemesis Cristiano Ronaldo performed exceptionally again over the past year, yet his side Real Madrid missed out on landing either La Liga or the UEFA Champions League. His goal scoring stats have been phenomenal but his lack of major honours could hurt his chances of landing the most sought after personal accolade of all for the 2nd time.
Their only realistic challengers for the throne all play for the current European and German champions Bayern Munich. Attacking talents Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller are joined on the list of nominees by Bayern teammates Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Ribery is the strongest standout contender having collected the award for Europe’s Best Player last season for his performances. The German contingent is joined by Dortmund’s prolific Robert Lewandowski.
The Paris Saint-Germain trio of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva have made the shortlist while fellow Ligue 1 big-spenders Monaco have a contender of their own in Radamel Falcao, acquired from Atletico Madrid in the close season. Zlatan’s recent sensational form and stunning goals will certainly sway some voters, but I expect him to miss out on the top 3.
The Premier League is represented by Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Arsenal’s new talisman Mesut Ozil. You can’t help feel that Luis Suarez could well have been a contender but for certain indiscretions and a lack of Champions League football.
La Liga is further represented by Real Madrid’s newest star signing Gareth Bale, and Barcelona’s trio of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Neymar. Many see the young Brazilian as the man to succeed Messi in the future and his time may yet come soon with the World Cup being hosted by Brazil next summer.
Serie A is weakly represented with just Andrea Pirlo seemingly a token gesture by FIFA. Italian football appears to still be lagging behind the other major European Leagues and has now been surpassed by the French Ligue 1 also. Italian football being written off always makes their teams dangerous though, so expect Italy to feature strongly at next year’s World Cup.
My prediction –
1/ Lionel Messi
2/ Cristiano Ronaldo
3/ Franck Ribery