Apr 24, 2014, 3:58 PM EST
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.
Dec 21, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
Catch up on Premier League Round 17 action from this Sunday.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:55 PM EST
According to Brendan Rogers, Liverpool’s prime attacker, Daniel Sturridge, will make his return from a multi-month injury in early January.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:05 PM EST
Sunderland winger Adam Johnson on game-winner and Tyne-Wear derby triumphs: “Three years in a row, they must hate me here!”
Dec 21, 2014, 3:39 PM EST
Brendan Rodgers gives his thoughts after a 2-2 draw despite what he called “dominance” on the ball.
Dec 21, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
With polarizing halves separating the teams, Arsene Wenger said a draw was the correct result based on performance.
Dec 21, 2014, 2:29 PM EST
Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to bring a grudge with him to Morocco.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:44 PM EST
With Newcastle yielding late, Alan Pardew thinks he may have left his team a little too exposed as the clock ticked towards the final minute.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:08 PM EST
Martin Skrtel returned from a nasty injury and took full advantage of the resulting stopptage time.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:58 AM EST
A day to forget for the American central defender in Germany’s top flight.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EST
The boyhood Newcastle fan scored at St. James Park for the third year in a row as Sunderland stole the Tyne-Wear derby late.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:16 AM EST
Raheem Sterling looks to be the lone attacking option for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers has left both his available strikers on the bench.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:52 AM EST
A magnetizing first touch leads to a meaningless but nonetheless beautiful goal by the man who gives us magic weekly.
Dec 21, 2014, 7:53 AM EST
The heated Tyne-Wear derby has brought us goals and fireworks of many kinds, and will be no different today as Sunderland looks to win four in a row over Newcastle for the first time ever.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:54 PM EST
Howard doesn’t think Lampard will start the MLS season with NYCFC, although he says he should.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:51 PM EST
Doneil Henry is reportedly close to joining West Ham, which is a surprise, to say the least.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:46 PM EST
After logging lots of miles the last 16 months, Raheem Sterling is going to get a short rest very soon.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:04 PM EST
NYCFC won’t be calling the Bronx home, but they’re still hopeful a deal can be done elsewhere in the city.
Dec 20, 2014, 7:13 PM EST
Arsene Wenger says he’s not cheap, and that you should join him for a night out if you don’t believe him.
Dec 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST
Barcelona are keeping things tight in Spain, while Roma are losing sight of Juventus once again.
Dec 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EST
Four trophies in one calendar year — it’s a good time to be Real Madrid.
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