THE good thing about the current edition of the Ballon d’Or is that it makes sense: I think it is fair for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manuel Neuer to be the three candidates.
No one will be able to say that the winner, whoever that is, did not deserve the award. And I say this because, in recent years, there have been editions when one wondered, “What is that guy doing among the world’s top three players?”
Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the candidates, is a fantastic player and a superb striker. He has had a great year, and he deserves a major portion of the credit for everything that Real Madrid have achieved.
Neuer, another candidate, is definitely the best goalkeeper in history. However, Messi remains the best player in the world – a unique footballer, one-of-a-kind – and I do not know how long it will be until we see another player like him.
I would vote for Messi, but I would not disagree if the award goes to Neuer. In my opinion, he is the best goalkeeper in history, of all the ones I have seen, including Amadeo Carrizo and Ubaldo Fillol.
It is a privilege to have him in goal, given how well he plays and how much he knows about football. There are keepers who make good saves but do not know much about football. Neuer has it all.
He is agile, he covers the posts like the best of them, he is good at stepping away from his goal, he kicks the ball well and he is great when it comes to timing.
When Neuer sees how a rival is going to hit the ball, he already knows where the ball is going to go.
I think he probably gets very bored in goal. Under Pep Guardiola, he may start to play as a striker anytime!
One day, as I talked to Guardiola, he told me how Neuer inspires him to stay calm at the worst of times, when rivals are attacking Bayern Munich with all their might.
Neuer still looks like he is walking around some avenue in the Bavarian city, almost indifferent to strikers even when he is being bombarded from all sides. And he can fulfil any role.
He can play further up, as a sweeper, or cover the wing-backs’ surges. These are things that Guardiola has always tried to achieve, but he had never before got such good results.
Former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes was great with his feet, but he also set up appalling own goals.
Neuer drives me crazy, but everything Messi can do during a match is out of this world. Messi remains the world’s best player, there is no doubt about that.
It is true that he has shown evidence of some fatigue this year, with too many things and too many obligations on his mind, too exposed on and off the football pitch.
It is also true, however, that there comes a point when it becomes impossible to paint one Mona Lisa a day.
I think Messi is now getting over that, and there is no doubt that he is still a diamond. – (GMS)