Cristiano Ronaldo took home the FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the second successive year on Monday in one of the less contentious decisions of the gala in Zurich. Ronaldo was honored for another incredible 12 months in which he scored more than a goal per game and lifted the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup with Real Madrid. The 29-year-old Portuguese star has now won the award three times after beating off competition, in votes cast by journalists and coaches and captains from each FIFA nation, from four-time winner, Barcelona and Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Germany’s World Cup winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
There was more success for Germany in the women’s award, where Nadine Kessler was named Women’s World Player of the Year after captaining Wolfsburg to Bundesliga and Champions League titles. The 26-year-old came out on top over Brazil’s five-time winner Marta and the all-time record international goal-scorer, the United States’ Abby Wambach. Kessler’s coach at Wolfsburg was also honored, with Ralf Kellermann beating out the coach of Germany’s Under-20 coach, Maren Meinert, and Japan coach Norio Sasaki for Women’s Coach of the Year.
Few could have any major gripes with those three awards, as indeed they couldn’t with James Rodriguez winning the fan vote for the Puskas Award for best goal of the year. The Real Madrid star’s incredible volleyed effort for Colombia against Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup topped Robin van Persie’s stunning diving header for the Netherlands against Spain at the same tournament and Stephanie Roche’s brilliant juggling and volley for Peamount United in the Irish women’s league.
While there were understandable claims for Roche’s effort to win, far more contention came elsewhere at FIFA’s glitzy ceremony. One astounding decision was not to give the Men’s Coach of the Year award to Diego Simeone, after he masterminded perhaps the greatest managerial achievement in the modern era. Simeone led an Atletico side assembled on a relatively modest budget to beat giants Barcelona and Real Madrid to the Spanish league title and came within 90 seconds of defeating Real Madrid to win the Champions League. Joachim Low was announced as the winner, and deserves recognition for marshalling a hugely talented German generation to lift the World Cup after a 24-year-drought. However, neither he nor remaining nominee, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, exceeded expectations in the same manner as Simeone.
The decision that provoked most ridicule on social media, though, was reserved for the FIFA FIFPro World XI, voted on by professionals across the globe. Incredibly, despite being perhaps the man most responsible for Brazil’s extraordinary 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semifinals and spending the first-half of the season as third-choice center-back at Chelsea, David Luiz was named in the team of the year. Luiz was voted in alongside Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva and Philipp Lahm at the back, meaning that Diego Godin, the defensive rock for Atletico and scorer of the goal that won them the league title and put them in front in the Champions League final missed out.
After a poor season, Andres Iniesta was also fortunate to be named in the XI, while the likes of Luka Modric were left out. A front three of Ronaldo, Messi and Arjen Robben was harder to question, but this was another FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala that, like FIFA as a whole, manages to provoke huge helpings of outrage and derision.
Full Awards List
FIFA Ballon d’Or: Cristiano Ronaldo
FIFA Women’s Player of the Year: Nadine Kessler
Men’s Coach of the Year: Joachim Low
Women’s Coach of the Year: Ralf Kellermann
Puskas Award: James Rodriguez
FIFA FIFPro World XI:
Angel di Maria