THE world of football got together to give itself a big pat on the back earlier this week, with the great and the good getting together in Zurich for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.
The big news, Lionel Messi’s red suit aside, was Cristiano Ronaldo winning the big prize, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, for a second time.
Messi had won the title the previous four years and remains the best player in the world, but, in my opinion, Ronaldo was a worthy winner this year, having managed to outshine his great rival, who had a few injury problems, in 2013.
He may not be easy to like, but you have to feel a bit sorry for Ronaldo, who probably would have dominated this award in the way Messi has done had he been around at a different time to the Argentinean maestro. It is rare for football to be blessed with two truly great players in their prime at the same time.
People may say that putting Messi and Ronaldo in this bracket is a little premature – but I don’t think so. In 10 or 20 years time, I believe we will view the pair in the same way we look at Best, Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Platini and Zidane.
The FIFPro World XI was announced at the same time and with no players from the Premier League making an appearance, people immediately began concluding that FIFA is anti-English.
This may be true of some of the men in charge of the game’s governing body, but sadly we cannot blame them for the World XI, which is voted for by the players.
However, it does appear that English football has a real image problem around the world. No English player has ever won the Ballon d’Or and only one man, Ronaldo in 2008, has won the honour while at an English club.
It may be that people around the world love watching the Premier League, but maybe they question its technical quality.
In terms of English players, I think it’s fair to say that only Wayne Rooney would get anywhere near the World XI. I don’t think we can complain that he didn’t make it either, considering the players he is up against in attack.
Goalkeeping-wise, I would agree with the selection of Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich, but Joe Hart could be a future representative, if he continues to play the way he has since being restored to the Manchester City side.
The most interesting thing to note about the choice of defenders is that there are no real outstanding candidates. We just don’t have any players like Matthaus, Baresi, Maldini or Cannavaro at the moment.
The four players chosen were Sergio Ramos, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves, not players who are likely to go down in history in my view.
A couple of Manchester City players, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany, would make my team, while I was astonished to learn that Ashley Cole has never been named in the World XI. Another sign of anti-English feeling?
The midfield is made up of Franck Ribery, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Ribery undoubtedly deserves his place and the other two are really, really good players – but in a quiet year for Barcelona, I think others are more worthy of a place in the team.
Gareth Bale was a one-man team for Spurs last year and then became the most expensive player in the world, while Yaya Toure dominates games, week in, week out, for Manchester City.
Ronaldo and Messi are obvious picks for two of the three attacking positions – but it must have been close for the final place between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez.
Both players are tremendously talented and scored an incredible number of goals last season. It’s very hard to split them and the fact that Suarez missed several games after biting an opponent may have been the factor that helped the Swede into the team – but I’d have Suarez.
Here’s my World XI – Neuer; Zabaleta, Ramos, Kompany, Lahm; Ribery, Toure, Bale; Messi, Suarez, Ronaldo.
You will notice that I have four current Premier League players and Bale. Does that make me biased towards English-based players? Possibly, but it’s probably just because I watch Premier League games every week.
Who would be in your World XI? Have your say by using the comment box below or Tweet me @JBoymanGazette.