Nov 29, 2013, 5:05 PM EDT
Messi, Ronaldo, and Ribéry. Every indication says this year’s Ballon d’Or come down to those three Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo are givens in this conversation, and a standout year from Franck Ribéry on top of an astounding season from Bayern Munich has vaulted the France international into the discussion. With most ballots sent in by now, there’s no more room in the conversation.
Which, of course, won’t stop us from second-guessing the whole discussion. Take yesterday, when we had two chances to comment on Ribery’s curious candidacy, albeit in passing. This is from our post on Real Madrid’s support of Cristiano Ronaldo:
While the France international’s improved play without the ball is a huge factor in his candidacy, the Bayern winger scored 20 goals in 50 appearances for club and country in 2013.
Ronaldo? 67 goals in 56 appearances.
So the question voters have (hopefully) asked themselves: Are the unquantifiable aspects Ribéry brings to the game worth enough to transcend that 47-goal gap?
It’s a question that addresses the idea Franck Ribéry might have out-performed Cristiano Ronaldo, but let’s leave that aside, even if it’s great comments fodder. (Seriously, have at it, below.)
What I’m more concerned with is others’ exclusion from the conversation, and in that sense, Ribéry serves as the best reference point. If he was able to break into this discussion, one that’s normally dominated by Messi and Ronaldo, why haven’t others?
Part of that is how the award’s announced. The 23-man shortlist will be reduced to three finalists shortly, a whittling down that influences how we talk about the award. When voters are casting their ballots, they’re asked for first, second, and third choices, another reason Ballon d’Or discussions focus on trios. At this point, the conversation has picked one player to join Messi and Ronaldo, focusing all its attention on him. Toppling that big two is such a monumental task, it takes the wills of many to keep the narrative afloat.
But the resulting tunnel vision isn’t fair to the handful of players who have as strong a case as Ribéry. Again, this is a guy who scored 20 goals, was crucial to many others, but has an offense-heavy case based largely on his intangible contributions to his team’s performance. If you recognize this is an individual award (and great teams are already rewarded by trophies), it’s not too difficult to argue players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Robin van Persie were better in 2013 (I’d only agree with one of those, though).
There are other two players, however, who’ve come on strong since the start of the club season – players who’ve received almost no attention for this award. Both are overshadowed by teammates more apt to pick up individual honors, something that kept one of them off the 23-man ballot entirely.
But Arturo Vidal deserves some attention here, especially if you’re using Franck Ribéry as the standard for what it takes to be in this discussion. Ribéry was unquestionably great last season, but if the argument hinges on his is production and influence on a successful team, Vidal’s case shares those merits. Though not as lauded as midfield partner Andrea Pirlo (who finished seventh in last year’s voting), he is the better player at this point in their careers, somebody who’s capable of being the best player in all facet of a game.
This season, in all competitions, Vidal already has 10 goals and four assists from his central midfielder’s role. In 52 games this year for club and country, the Chilean international has scored as many goals as Ribéry (20) while seemingly making a greater defensive contribution. That’s not to say Vidal definitely had a better year than Ribéry (these players are close enough where personal preferences should be allowed to win out), but if Ribéry’s in a player of the year discussion, Vidal deserves a place, too.
On the surface, Ribéry appears to be getting credit for Bayern’s team accomplishments, but even if you think that has a place in individual awards, why aren’t other Bayern players getting the same benefit? For example, given how important we’ve seen Philipp Lahm be in defensive midfield this season, would it make sense to look at his play this fall, his contributions to Bayern’s success last season, and his role with a highly successful German national team and note his intangibles case probably transcends Ribéry’s? It’s worth talking about, particularly as Lahm’s play to start this season may have closed the gap Ribéry built up last spring.
And Ribéry did have a truly great year. Through June, he was Bayern’s best player, and the best player in the Bundesliga. But there are a handful of players who, over the course of the year, were just as good. While he may get some bonus points for his contributions to Bayern, it’s not like he was their only good player. And even when you give him that benefit of the doubt, it’s unclear he’s done enough to monopolize this conversation at the expense of Vidal, Lahm, Ibrahimovic, and others. One players greatness shouldn’t come at the expensive of all others’.
Sep 29, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT
Sepp Blatter confirmed FIFA voted strongly to eliminate third-party ownership in all professional settings, with a transitional period of a few years to be instituted immediately.
Sep 29, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
The Men discussed all things Premier League on this week’s episode, including Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney, and a Peter Crouch chicken dance.
Sep 29, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
With plenty of tournament success, the Mexican youth is turning the head of the senior team’s manager.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT
Things surrounding Newcastle’s managerial position have become increasingly untenable.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
If PSG fail to make serious noise against top Champions League clubs, Laurent Blanc could be on his way out of Paris.
Sep 29, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT
Making $400,000 more than anyone else in the league, Kaka is set to lead Orlando City into MLS with a colossal paycheck.
Sep 29, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT
With MLS movement at a high, the controversial Malaysian expressed his wishes to enter the US realm
Sep 29, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT
He’s out with a broken tibia, but Giroud still remains vital to Arsenal’s long-term success.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
According to an ESPN report, Chivas will take at least a 2-year break to allow for a rebrand to occur and a new stadium to be built.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT
Peter Crouch’s early header put Stoke up early as Alan Pardew’s job security took another hit.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT
He hasn’t managed to pick out a start for the Red Devils’ senior side, but getting minutes for the U-21’s, he showed off his bright talents.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT
After playing over an hour for the U-21 team this weekend, Paul Lambert will have Benteke available for selection against Manchester City.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT
Gunners lose star midfielder for a month after hamstring injury.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
All eyes on Pardew. Watch Stoke host Newcastle, right here.
Sep 29, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Klinsmann to select NASL star for October camp?
Sep 29, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT
Watch Stoke vs. Newcastle live on Monday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Sep 29, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT
Will United head back to the USA, the Middle East or elsewhere if they schedule friendlies during the current season?
Sep 29, 2014, 11:41 AM EDT
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 6.
Sep 29, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Rooney: “I saw the West Ham player making a counter-attack and I tried to break-up the play but I just misjudged it. I apologized to the lads.”
Sep 29, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT
After up and down start to the season, Brooks has been sent to the reserves.
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