FIFA made a surprising move when they extended the voting for the World Player of the Year award from November 15th until the end of the month. Although this is an award that rewards a player’s trajectory throughout an entire year, the idea was that during a crucial a stage as it is the final playoff that gives access to the World Cup, three of the potential five finalists were battling for the last few tickets to Brazil, and of course their performances promised to be epic.
After a great season at the individual level, Cristiano Ronaldo did not waste the chance to have this over exposure, and became the hero of his birth nation scoring 4 goals in two matches against Sweden to get Portugal on the December group stage draw for the World Cup.
His performance on the second leg of the series was out of this world, and he was able to carry his team to victory scoring an incredible hat-trick, even after Sweden had come back from a 0-1, to a 2-1 partial victory with only 25 minutes to go.
This final statement has, according to polls in most of the specialized media outlets in the world, giving Cristiano the final push he needed to become the fan favorite for the award. Of course, it will all depend on what the National Team Managers and captains of the FIFA associated nations decide, but popular clamor seems to point at the fact Ronaldo has surpassed both Ribery and Messi in the stands.
Ronaldo has not won any trophies with Real Madrid
On the downside for Ronaldo, however, we have the fact that he does not have the team level awards that his biggest competitor, Franck Ribery, has attained during the year. Real Madrid has not won a single trophy in 2013, and although Ronaldo scored against Borussia Dortmund in the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League last year, and against Atletico Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey, his team did not support his performances, and he ended up defeated in both competitions.
And this is where it gets tricky. If the FIFA World Player of the year is to reward the best player of the year, do the voters need to take into consideration their teams’ success rate in that year?
While this is normally not a big problem, as the best players’ teams are usually also the best teams, Real Madrid and Ronaldo’s situation in 2013 clearly bring into fruition this problem with the real purpose of this coveted trophy.
Ribery was the top prospect to win the Ballon D’Or in the first half of the season. He is the main man of an almost perfect team like Bayern Munich, which last year pummeled all of its rivals, and won the Treble –Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League.
Of course, the Frenchman has had a great season at an individual level too, but the doubt remains: would he have had such an impressive season had he played in a team that was not as competitive as Bayern?
The question can be answered by looking at his performances with France, a team that –like Portugal– ended up having to go to a decisive final playoff before reaching the World Cup.
Ribery was not half as effective –or important and impactful, rather– as Ronaldo was with Portugal, and with a much more talented squad, he had a ton more issues than Real Madrid’s attacker to get past Ukraine on that decisive final round, a rival also not as competitive as Sweden.
All in all, we could convene that the lack of competitiveness of Real Madrid and Portugal, could actually make Ronaldo’s achievements seem even more important than Ribery’s with Bayern Munich.
With Lionel Messi out of the running due to his injury ridden year, the final decision will come down to the Frenchman and the Portuguese, and after seeing Ronaldo crush Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s crew, it seems hard to believe he will not be the chosen one, this year, to win the FIFA World Player of the Year.