Apr 24, 2014, 3:58 PM EDT
For the fourth time in five years, exactly one soccer player has made TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Following in the footsteps of Didier Drogba (2010), Lionel Messi (2012) and Mario Balotelli (2013), Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo takes soccer’s spot in this year’s group, one of five athletes chosen to the publication’s annual list.
Professional basketball player Jason Collins, tennis star Serena Williams, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and golfer Lydia Ko also claim spots on the list, one that’s traditionally dominated by cultural celebrities, politicians, artists and innovators.
Despite the solemnity of the task, it’s a list that can’t be taken too seriously, yet it does provide some insight as to who is making an impact beyond our often introverted soccer sphere. Particularly in a World Cup year, the selection as special meaning, acting as a type of mainstream “who to watch as this summer’s tournament.”
That’s why Drogba — the most prominent African player at 2010’s African World Cup — was selected. Lionel Messi’s choice came at the height of the Barcelona star’s dominance (are we already talking about this like it’s in the past?), while the cultural and sociological implications surrounding Mario Balotelli provide an extra dimension to what’s become and obligatory soccer spot.
So why Cristiano Ronaldo? He is the Ballon d’Or winner, but with the selections of Drogba and Balotelli, we see those types of honors aren’t necessary to get on this list. With this summer’s world championship being held in Brazil, it may have made more sense to select a Brazilian national team member, though there are no obvious candidates. And among the other possibilities for this honor, Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be at the World Cup at all.
In all likelihood, it was just Ronaldo’s turn. If TIME’s looking for a soccer player to provide some global athletic relevance, he is the obvious choice. While he may not truly be one of the world’s 100 most influential people (at least, let’s hope not), he is the the best candidate for the soccer slot. As this sport’s prestige goes, Ronaldo has as much as anybody, right now.
But if we buy into a few premises — the TIME does tend to pick one (and only one) soccer player; that repeat selections are avoided — are can already start guessing who will be on next year’s list. If he has a good World Cup, Luis Suárez seems a logical bet, though a world championship for host nation Brazil could also vault Neymar into the spot. Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s newfound social media relevance will make the case for his influence, though TIME may take a year off entirely, as it did after the last World Cup.
This year, however, Ronaldo gets the honor. And deservedly so.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:11 PM EDT
Full credit to England for an inspiring World Cup, and to Japan for getting to a second straight World Cup final.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT
Three weeks from tonight are the Gold Cup semifinals, with the final on July 26 in Philadelphia.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT
From Brandi Chastain and Jeb Brovsky to total strangers from England and beyond, my goodness, people are trying to console Laura Bassett.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group is hampering progress.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT
Defending champion Japan advances to second straight Women’s World Cup final.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT
Big story for Dortmund, even if it’s a bit under-the-radar.
Jul 1, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Donovan, of course, was left off the World Cup roster last summer by Klinsmann, much to the chagrin of many U.S. fans.
Jul 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
England’s fairytale run to its first Women’s World Cup semifinal meets the reigning champions in Edmonton on Wednesday
Jul 1, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT
Shay Facey knows Lampard from his time at Manchester City, and wasn’t bashful in praising the situation.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:26 PM EDT
He’s the latest addition for Roberto Mancini at the San Siro, along with Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Granada defender Jeison Murillo.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
As we gear up for a massive Gold Cup tournament, here’s a look at the superstars who will be on show in the United States of America.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
With the summer transfer window officially open, plenty of deals have started to trickle through. Here’s a roundup of the latest.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
USWNT legend Wambach joins the Dan Patrick show to preview the Women’s World Cup final.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
Can the Three Lionesses cause another upset to set up a clash with the USA in the final?
Jul 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Colombian forward is inching towards a move to Stamford Bridge.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
After giving away a PK in a pivotal moment of the USWNT’s World Cup semifinal, Johnston thanked her teammates for their support.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
The little magician grabbed three assists and carved open Paraguay’s defense time and time again. Sublime.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT
Spanish club reveal snazzy new jerseys with plenty of meaning behind them. Check out the rainbow inspired get-up, here.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Despite Di Maria’s stop-start debut campaign at Old Trafford, the Argentine international still has the backing of his teammates.
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