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2010 Ballon D’Or

January 10, 2011

It has been known for a long time that the three candidates to win the Ballon d’Or for best player of the year 2010 are Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, all of them playing for FC Barcelona and products of their youth system. All three of them are wonderful players and do deserve a recognition that they are among the best in the world. I have no doubt that Lionel Messi is indeed the best football player in the world, and probably will be the best in my lifetime. In the end it was Lionel Messi who won the Ballon d’Or, partly I suspect for being an awesome player.

However, I still have a small bone to pick with this award. The Ballon d’Or should be awarded to the player who has truly excelled during one calendar year. And for that reason, I still cannot comprehend the omission of Wesley Sneijder.

Sure, you may say that I’m biased as an Ajax and Dutch fan but let’s put things in perspective.

At the start of the 2009/2010 season, Wesley Sneijder was unwanted at Real Madrid. He wanted to stay but Real Madrid forced him out so he joined Inter Milan (for €15M, when Real Madrid bought from Ajax for €27M – they were really desperate to get rid of him). There Jose Mourinho build the team around him and Inter Milan proceeded to win the Scudetta, the Italian Cup AND the Champions League! On top of that he reached the finals of the World Cup with Netherlands, scoring the two most important goals in the quarter-final against Brazil. He became the “little general” in the Dutch team and helped ease tensions in a team that was usually noted for in-fighting (according to the media – not that it was ever true in the past years).

Barcelona won the Spanish league with a record-number of points and also the Spanish Super Cup. Andres Iniesta scored the world cup winning goal for Spain, where Xavi was also pulling the strings. Lionel Messi’s Argentina didn’t fare too well in the world cup, getting a 4-0 hammering from Germany in the quarter-final. Even though Argentina didn’t do well and Messi didn’t score, I still think that Messi played a really good World Cup. It’s just a shame that Maradona didn’t send the team out with proper tactics.

During the year 2010, Sneijder achieved as much as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, if not more. So why was he not included in the short-list?

In terms of pure skills, then it will be Messi hands down with Xavi a close second. I cannot think of any other midfielder who has the skill and vision of Xavi, where he can receive the ball and pass it on for a goal-scoring opportunity under intense pressure. Whereas Iniesta and Sneijder are probably in the same category skill wise.

There was one pass of Sneijder during the World Cup final which I thought was amazing but not a lot of people/pundits picked up on.

It was the pass to Robben which freed him for a run on goal, only to be denied by the toes of Iker Casillas. Sneijder won an awkward the ball in his half with his back to the goal. Instinctively he turned around and while falling down he send a defense-splitting long ball to Robben towards goal. He knew exactly where Robben was going to run and the pass was inch-perfect. If Robben had scored that goal, everyone would be talking about that pass and Sneijder would have definitely be short-listed for the Ballon d’Or. What a difference a length of a toe can make to someone’s career…

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