Since 2009 the Balon d’Or has been locked out by two footballers; Lionel Messi, who has won the previous three years, and Cristiano Ronaldo who won the year before that. This year the focus is again on which of the two will win the prize, with Messi outperforming Ronaldo in terms of goals, but the Portuguese being the one to claim the league title with Real Madrid.
As neither won the Champions League, or the European Championship in the summer (to be fair to Messi, Argentina never really had much of a shot) there isn’t an outright favourite between the two to win the Balon d’Or, and maybe this year neither should be the one to claim it. On the pitch alongside them in the Clasico were several players who were part of the Spanish team to claim their third major tournament in a row, and looking outside Spain, there are Spanish players who accomplished even more.
The Balon d’Or isn’t just about your team achievements, or just about personal accomplishment, it has to be a mix of both, and you cannot simply ignore everything the footballer has done in past years either. Consequently, in my opinion, there is one man in particular who should be in real contention: Iker Casillas.
The captain of Real Madrid and Spain, with 140 appearances for his country. He has saved his teams over and over again, never more so than in the World Cup final against the Netherlands in 2010, and was superb again as Madrid overcame Barcelona in the league, and Spain won the European Championships. Casillas has also been a perenially classy figure in the frequently grubby disputes between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Indeed his friendship with the Spanish players at the Catalan club helped mould Spain into the force they are. Keepers don’t generally win the Balon d’Or, Casillas certainly deserves to be in the running this year, and it would be a fitting reward for his incredible career.
The Ballon d’Or is decided by a voting system amongst coaches and captains of international teams along with others. This means it will probably go to one the big two, as even if people favour others as their main vote, a player like Casillas is very unlikely to receive as many second and third placed votes as Ronaldo or Messi. But if you are judging it on a balance on team achievement and personal accomplishment, Casillas is the name that comes to mind.
As an interesting side-note, if you want to go on pure achievement, then surely it should go to a man who has won the FA Cup, Champions League and European Championships. A man who was, in fact, the top scorer at Euro 2012. Fernando Torres, take a bow.
image: © Ben Sutherland