Nowadays, FIFA, world football’s governing body, has little to no credibility. With the organisation, under the leadership of Sepp Blatter, seemingly in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, FIFA has been under damage control for some time now. And the release of the 23-man Ballon d’Or shortlist will not help.
Sure, accomplished veterans including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, nemesis Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta have made the cut – by default, we assume. However, it was the shocking omission of former Liverpool talisman Luis Suarez that has the world talking.
The Ballon d’Or was an accolade which, in its glorious past, was held in high esteem. Not only does it recognise the natural talent of its recipients, but also the hard work the individual has put in order to be recognised as the greatest player on earth.
Following the fallout from Justin Gatlin’s IAAF World Athlete of the Year exclusion, you’d think Sepp Blatter and co would’ve learnt not create controversies. And at this rate, FIFA is running down the dangerous path of making the Ballon d’Or an irrelevant award built upon its own agenda.
The secrecy of the organisation itself, in conjunction with a lack of criteria, means that it’s doubtful that we’ll ever get a respectable justification for the Uruguayan’s omission, though one could speculate that Suarez’s antics, in particular, his bite on Giorgio Chiellini in their World Cup clash was the definitive reason.
Admittedly, on-field actions should play their part. In fact, the FIFA ‘rulebook’ states: “The selection criteria for the players of the year (men’s and women’s) are sporting performance as well as general behaviour on and off the pitch from 30 November 2013 until 21 November 2014”. Surely, though, after serving an excessive four month football ban, you’d think they would have gotten over the whole incident by now.
Statistics don’t lie: Suarez made 33 Premier League appearances last season, scoring 31 in total to help Liverpool to a second place finish, an incredible achievement for a side which was berated prior to their campaign. In addition, he averaged a goal every 61 minutes as he went on the claim the European Golden Boot.
Bar his bite, the 27-year-old enjoyed a solid World Cup campaign which saw him net twice in as many appearances – goals which helped Uruguay qualify from the group in second place.
In addition, his commitment to the club should be recognised and his work ethic was there for everyone to see. Not only did he contribute with goals, but also worked hard in defense and helped unite a side which had struggled in previous seasons. Barcelona’s 70 million euro bid for the striker speaks volumes of the great season which he enjoyed. Put simply, he deserves to be up there with the other candidates.
There’s no doubt that Ronaldo will be front runner for the award. Indeed, his 30 goals in 31 appearances might just look slightly better on paper and there’s no denying that the Portuguese star played a massive role in helping Real Madrid to La Decima. Yet, it seems debatable as to whether or not he was in fact the side’s best. Take Angel Di Maria, whose versatility in midfield, the engine room if you like, effectively allowed Carlo Ancelotti to unlock the potential of their attacking trio.
Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos also finds himself on the list after an inconsistent season punctuated by random bursts of match-saving performances, while both Eden Hazard and Yaya Toure were pipped to the end of season awards by the Uruguayan himself.
It seems that, nowadays, the Ballon d’Or itself is merely an opinionated forum whereby officials subjectively list their favourite 23 players. The latest omission of arguably the world’s best performer over the last 12 months is a reflection of how nonsensical FIFA has become under Blatter. What was once a respectable award, is no more. And the absence of Suarez shows that there is nothing objective when it comes to selecting the best of the rest.
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