Here is the time again when the soccer world awards its best player in an annual ceremony to acknowledge the world's best player in Switzerland.
Let's get to know the finalists first.
Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored 46 goals in the La Liga or a total of 60 goals in all competitions. 10 of these strikes came in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League as he finished third in the goal scorers chart behind Lionel Messi and Mario Gomez. Ronaldo, according to Jose Mourinho, was the best player on the best La Liga team of all-time. In 2011-2012, Real Madrid became the only club in the history of the Spanish Primera to tally 100 points in a single season.
Los Blancos also set the record for most away points in a season (50), most points in the second half of a season (53) and most league goals scored in a season. In short, Ronaldo fully deserves to win this year's Ballon d'Or.
With that said, some may argue that Lionel Messi deserves to win soccer's most prominent individual award yet again. Jose Mourinho begs to differ.
"Cristiano has to be the Ballon d'Or winner, not because he was the top scorer, which he already was last season, but because his goals won the league," the Real Madrid boss said. "Cristiano has not been able to win the top scorer award and I think that should now be offset by the Ballon d'Or."
Andres Iniesta. It is said Lionel Messi wouldn't have scored as many goals had Iniesta not right behind him to supply him the ball. Iniesta is small, only 170 cm, but it was his vision, speed, and passing that makes the difference between top teams and a great team.
While Iniesta is not the flashy player Ronaldo and Messi may be, he is the brain behind the operation. He and Xavi have constructed the best midfield in the world for both Barcelona and Spain and the absence of either one has a negative effect on each squad. Those arguing that Messi is nothing without Iniesta may not be completely right, but there is certainly some credit due to that argument. Iniesta helps set up most plays and has been praised as the most creative force in Barcelona's midfield.
More important of all, however, is that he has won team trophies this year while Messi has won none. Ronaldo won the Spanish league championship, but Iniesta was considered the top player at the Euro 2012 and the best player in Europe (he was picked over Ronaldo in both cases). Additionaly, he has the support of major figures in the soccer world to win this award including Luis Fernandez, Vicente del Bosque, and even Messi himself.
Many could argue that the award is for individual effort and success and not team success, but Iniesta has achieved both. By virtue of winning the two aforementioned awards, he is being recognized as being a major motor in his team's success and that is something that neither of his two combatants have been able to achieve on the same level.
Lionel Messi. Ok, do we even need an intro here? He broke all records by scoring 5 goals in the Champions League, 91 goals in the 2012 calendar year and put Pele and Müller's record below him and led Barcelona to Copa del Rey glory.
Messi is far and away the front-runner for the award, but there is one compelling argument against his victory: Messi didn't win a major team trophy in 2012. The Spanish League title was wrestled away from Barcelona for the first time in three years by none other Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid. While Ronaldo scored the game winner against Barcelona in the spring Clasico that essentially won them the trophy, Messi was held scoreless. During the Champions League, Messi had a prime chance to score on the penalty shot for Barcelona against a 10-man Chelsea, but he also failed and his team was eventually eliminated in the semi-final. During the Spanish Super Cup, he also failed to deliver the championship for Barcelona. The only trophy he delivered was the 2011-2012 Copa Del Rey, but he only scored three goals in that one.
His two opponents did win major trophies in 2012. As previously stated, Ronaldo won the Spanish League title and the Spanish Super Cup while Messi's Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta picked up a major victory at the Euro 2012. He also won the MVP for that tournament and was awarded with the award for the Best Player in Europe by UEFA.
However, Messi's 2012 has been like no other. At the top of everyone's list of recognition will be the superhuman feat of scoring 91 goals in a calendar year. The feat broke Gerd Müller's new record and established Messi as the greatest goal scorer of all time. He ended the 2011-12 season with 50 goals scored and 15 assists. In the Champions League he led all players with 14 goals and five assists. He ended the season on an even better run with 26 goals and five assists in 17 matches for Barcelona and is on pace to top the 50 goals he scored last season. He ended 2012 by scoring 15 goals in his last nine matches. He also has five goals in the Champions League and has finally shown his ability to lead his national team. Messi and Argentina are currently sitting atop the qualification table for the 2014 World Cup thanks to some big goals and plays from him.
For pure individual success, no one was better than Messi and that reason alone should enable him to win a record fourth Ballon d'Or.
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