KARACHI: There are few things that Messrs Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger agree upon. That the Ballon d’Or promotes individualism and is therefore bad for the game, is one of them.
Both legendary managers have hit out at the award in recent times, along with a plethora of other players and coaches. But the fact is that it remains the greatest accolade for a player, and on Monday Cristiano Ronaldo added the jewel to his crown for a third time, deservingly so, to further strengthen the criticism.
2014 served to highlight the best and the worst that Ronaldo has to offer.
He may have rightly shaken off his ‘big-game flop’ title but it came back to haunt the Portuguese on one occasion too many this year.
Ronaldo missed the Copa del Ray final against Barcelona and from the sidelines saw the man who overtook him as the most expensive player in the world, Gareth Bale, score a worthy winner.
In the Champions League final, Ronaldo was by far the worst outfield player for either side and would have come in for severe criticism had Sergio Ramos not scored that vital equaliser with virtually the last touch of regular time.
In extra time, against a tiring Atletico Madrid side, it was again Bale who scored the deciding goal. Only with the Rojiblancos down and out, 120 minutes into the game, did Ronaldo make his first telling contribution; first winning and then converting a penalty. He celebrated as if his goal had won the match, rather than just rounding off the scoring.
He was similarly poor in the World Cup as Portugal limped out in the group stages, winning only one match. The skipper cut a frustrated figure in his side’s 4-0 loss against Germany. His sublime cross in the final minute against USA led to Silvestre Varela heading in the equaliser in a 2-2 draw. Ronaldo was once again poor and tellingly refused to celebrate after the equaliser gave them an outside chance of qualification.
In the final group match against Ghana, Ronaldo finally got on the score sheet, netting the winner in the 80th minute to become the only Portuguese to score in three World Cups. It was, however, too little too late as Portugal crashed out in embarrassing fashion.
But then again, they may not even have been there had it not been for the individual brilliance of Ronaldo. In the two play-off legs against Sweden, he scored all four of his side’s goals, including a stunning hat-trick in Stockholm, as Portugal triumphed 4-2 on aggregate. Sweden’s two goals were scored by their very own self-centred and individual talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But despite not helping his team when it mattered the most, Ronaldo broke record after record in 2014. Most goals in CL knockout stages, most CL goals in a season, most hat-tricks in La Liga and most goals for Portugal — to scrape just the tip of the iceberg.
Ronaldo and Lionel Messi continue to reign supreme in an award whose critics grow by the day. Political, biased, unhealthy for the sport — it has been called all. And little surprise.
Ribery finished third last year despite being the best player of a treble-winning Bayern Munich side, while this year’s third-placed Manuel Neuer is revolutionising goalkeeping with club and country and is doing so with considerable personal and team success. Wesley Sneijder didn’t even finish in the top three in 2010 despite winning the treble with Inter and almost winning the World Cup with Holland.
But this time around Ronaldo did deserve the Ballon d’Or more than any member of the German World Cup winning squad; and that is the most damning of indictments of the award.