Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded the first ever The Best, by FIFA, after the world authority on soccer ended its partnership with France Football magazine — which still owns the rights to the Ballon D’Or.
Lionel Messi’s announced absence from the event all but shut down the rumors that there could’ve been a different winner between the Ballon D’Or and FIFA’s new award.
The results can’t be argued as unfair, especially when there are no guidelines to help us reach a conclusion. Traditionally, the winning vote has gone to the best player on the team that won the most important trophy — with a fortunate exception for the Portuguese in 2013.
Despite earned criticism for a growingly unpleasant style to watch, Ronaldo was able to capture the Champions League and the European Championship, the two biggest competitions held in the calendar year.
However, Lionel Messi wasn’t too far behind, having won La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with FC Barcelona. The fact that kept Messi practically out of the race was his international failure with Argentina.
The problematic Copa America Centenario, held in the United States, ended with a Chilean victory over Argentina, via spot kicks. Messi missed a huge penalty and was significantly responsible for his team’s loss, despite his fiercest supporters’ constant blaming of Gonzalo Higuaín.
A recurring criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2016 campaign is that he wasn’t responsible for Portugal’s victory in the deciding game, being instead carried out due to an early injury and left waiting powerlessly for the outcome. Éder saved the day and helped prove that it’s better to be a small part of an eventual win, than a big part of a loss.
Maybe Messi lost this award more than Ronaldo won it, but the Argentinian is still ahead 5-4 in Player of the Year nods. Ronaldo is aware of the latter and he didn’t hesitate to mention his obsession when he cut the lead to 4-3. He threw another jab at his rival during his most recent acceptance speech, stating that he would have liked to see him in the audience along with his Barcelona teammates.
The on-field resolution will go far beyond amicable banter, and Ronaldo would be doing himself a favor if he stepped up his exhibition level regardless of Real Madrid’s success. During the last game against Borussia Dortmund for the Champions League group stage, Ronaldo couldn’t complete a basic run that had me wondering if he’s been playing through an injury. It is well known that he doesn’t like to give an inch to the competition.
Messi’s latest performances have been a treat for the eyes, headlined by a tour de force against Villarreal that ended with a stunning free kick. In contrast, Messi’s exhilarating pace hasn’t stopped Barcelona from getting somewhat disappointing results, now facing an uphill battle against the Madridistas in La Liga.
The juxtaposition of methods and philosophies makes way for an amazing race, where style and substance are weighed together, and apart from each other. The system will keep being questioned, the wheels will keep turning, and we’ll be here to watch it all unfold.