Who should win the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or for the best player of the year in world soccer?
It's a question that I've heard from several readers of late, and now seems like an ideal time to address the topic. For a number of reasons this year's race is the closest we've seen in years, and the questions of who will win and who
Before we get into the candidates, though, some quick background on the award itself. In July, FIFA announced that it had teamed up with the magazine
Having two awards had become redundant, anyway: In the past three years the same player has swept both (
(For those who are curious, the U.S. media voter is
Anyway, back to the question: Who should win the 2010 Ballon d'Or? The two most important competitions of the year, of course, were the World Cup and the UEFA Champions League, though we should certainly take into account performances in domestic leagues as well as non-European leagues and club tournaments like the Copa Libertadores. (Let's be honest, though: The players who succeed at the highest levels of European club soccer have a huge leg up on players based in clubs on other continents.)
Who are my top six candidates for this year's Ballon d'Or? Let's break it down (in alphabetical order):
Who should win the award and who
That leaves Forlán, Messi and Sneijder. Getting into the heads of the voters (which include three votes each from Dominica and Azerbaijan, the same number held by Spain and Brazil), I think the majority of the votes will go to the answers of two questions: 1) Who's the best player in the world? (Messi), and 2) Who won the most in 2010? (Sneijder). One of those two will win. I'm betting on Messi, whose exploits with Barcelona over the next three months will help him stand out even more in the minds of voters when they put pen to paper.
Winning matters. And in a World Cup year, I feel that winning that quadrennial trophy should matter the most. Only in a truly exceptional World Cup year should someone from outside the World Cup-winning team take home the sport's most prestigious individual prize, and I don't think we have met those exceptions in 2010. Xavi was the best player on the World Cup champion. His style defined Spain's style. It did as well with Barcelona, which won the Spanish league and was no slouch in the Champions League, reaching the semifinals.
Your 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner should be Xavi. I'm not a voter, but here is how I would cast my ballot (unless something exceptional happens in the next three months of games):
I would also suggest that in addition to inviting the five or six finalists for the Ballon d'Or to the award ceremony in Zurich on Jan. 10, FIFA should also name 2010 Player of the Year awards for each confederation -- men and women -- and invite them to the event as well. Let's make it as grand an occasion as possible and acknowledge that great soccer is being played around the world, not just in Europe.
I'll get to more of your questions in my next column. In the meantime, tell me what you think about my arguments for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or.