The Ballon d’Or 2019

“I have won many awards and I am very happy about this, but I am not the best player in the world.”

-Zinedine Zidane 

THE PROGRESS

The most-watched and played sport in the world. The talent, hard work, and determination to make it at the top. What limits do you have to break to become the best football player in the world? What factors determine success in this sport? Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been regarded as the best players in a period of 10 years, which came to be possibly the biggest sports rivalry of all time. Not only have they both won a mixture of golden boots, La Ligas, individual trophies but as well a total combination of 10 Ballon d’Or (5 each) under both names. Throughout the years, both have been the biggest topic of debate for a while. Cristiano has been considered the “machinery of hard work”and Lionel Messi has been given the title of talent. As much as the two greats conquer world football at their feet. There has come a time when the odd one declares the bold statement: “Messi is the best player.” And of course, there will be others who disagree and say that: “Ronaldo is the better player.” 

And the debate goes on and on each year until one was crowned the winner and then the next year it’s the “other one” who’s crowned the winner. However what about the rise of new challenges each season? They have no doubt always been able to overcome those challenges and triumph. It’s as if this game of cards they were playing both got dealt with godly hands. So the argument really comes down to one question: What makes the best player in the world ‘the best’?

And a good way to answer that question is thinking of the considerable factors that add up to that. A good quote states: “Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back.” This quote was said by ex-Arsenal player: Tony Adams. This is ultimately the first factor in world football to consider. “Passion.” You won’t want to do something in life if you don’t like it. It just becomes boring after. And the sad reality is, many footballers only play football for the money. A footballer that plays in Saudi Arabia was asked for an interview and was questioned what he liked about football? He replied: “I don’t like the sport football, I only play it because I’m good at it. I can make money off something I’m good at.” This is considerably true however the real question lies in the value of your very own life. People don’t actually want to work in an office everyday but if there highly skilled in mathematics then the wage and outcome would be good. Money is the independent variable that drives people “the dependent variable”  into certain possibilities. You have a very limited time in this world, Working in an office may pay well but out of everything you can do in life, The resources around you. It is better to chase after your passion rather then do something because of your good at it or the money. This all then contributes to 3 more attributes:

  1. The difficulty 
  2. The goal
  3. The work-rate 

Let’s start off with the difficulty, How easy is it? How hard is it? These questions will determine whether your playing football on how easy it is or how hard it is. The answer is right in sight. If you find it easy, Then you’ll keep playing without passion, however if its hard, then that’s the choice where you either depart or keep going. That’s the first step of passion. Will you keep playing the game just because it’s hard? Its difficult looking at it in a professional perspective but football is football. And the level where they play at can only be determined by each individual player. 

Secondly, What is your goal in the game? This question is surprisingly unanswerable to many footballers because it’s either unintentional cliche or its a more on a personal aspect. If you say your goal is towards the money then your desire to play beautiful football can only be ruled on a wage rather than passion, but if you say your goal is to try to break a record and become a top scorer in some sort then the expectations may be too high for any starter to comprehend. This is the tide where it separates most players and really makes them think. Most football players would also say to try to get famous but that is simply out of the question whether its towards a girl or another passion there trying to chase for. The many goals of football is to get goals and become a team player but the most important goal in football is to have fun. What’s the point of playing football if it isn’t fun? It’s basically anything in life. You’re not going to find entertainment out of anything if it isn’t fun. That’s why below the professional level football is labelled as an activity instead of a requirement. You’re not required to play football but you are required to pay taxes. 

Out of the question, however, we have the final attribute which is hard work. This automatically rules out everything towards just being good and trying to make a living. If you’re really going to play a sport on the professional level. You might as well work hard for it to try to make yourself better. It’s all about the level of intel you put into it. You understanding of football. The techniques, The tactics. The game itself is all under the system where in order to get to the top, you must put in simply: Hard Work. The thing that clearly separates difficulty and the goal of money from hard work is that hard work requires one thing that the others don’t possess. That’s passion. Why work so hard for something if your not passionate about it. It’s the way of life. Your not going to like doing homework unless you get a bad mark. The drive to get a better mark is simply fueled by passion. It’s the exact same thing in football, You cannot be a top performer if you don’t like the sport. You must love the sport with your life. You must play for the name at the front and they will remember the name at the back. Being an outstanding footballer is as easy as that. You must have passion. The fuel that drives your love of the sport. 

Now the question still remains: What makes the best player in the world, The Best? We have already discussed the certain attributes that makeup passion around the sport but in theory, There are much more important factors that still have to be covered. One of the most important being your skills and ability. The way you can handle pressure on the field as well as weave pass through players while controlling the ball. This season, a great example of that was Liverpool’s: Sadio Mane. The ability to maintain perfect control with the combination of speed is the reason why his complication of the sport is so versatile. Sadio Mane is one of the seven contenders for the Ballon D’or this year has scored a total of 22 goals in his premier league campaign whilst totaling 2 assists. An exceptional season from him not only in the premier league but across other competitions like the Champions league as well. Manes technique at the highest stage of world football is being close to the best if not one of the best. Manes dribbling and control is subliminal, He controls the ball on the field in such a distance that he keeps the ball less than a meter in front of him but is still fully capable of having it at his feet. This way that Mane plays is not only good for going past defenders but it’s also great for striking long crosses. When judging a player from there skill and ability, a term to use descriptively is: “style.”  

Footballers are defined on there pitch by their style of play. Manes style is long ball controlling. He is able to keep a far enough distance with the ball tight and compact but is still remaining the ability to securely maintain the ball within that far enough distance. Other players with similar styles of play include: Gareth Bale, Wilfred Zaha, and Dries Mertens. 

Style is a very important attribute in football. It’s how players define there game. Cristiano Ronaldo’s style has been characterized so much through the years, as he started from a technical forward in his Sporting Days moving to a speed dribbler in Manchester United then going on as a prolific striker in Real Madrid finally ending up as a complete attacker in Juventus. The progression throughout the years proves that he has always been at the top of his game due to the changes he made to his style. Ronaldo has stopped dribbling and had focused more on scoring. This progression has made him into the player he is today. The Ballon D’or is still yet the most prized possession wanted by ever footballer in the world. It is the ultimate goal to becoming one of the greatest of all time. Only the best for each season deserves to win the grand prize. And one of the candidates each year is Cristiano Ronaldo. Because of his amazing skill and amount of goals each year. It’s no doubt he’s the top of the footballing world.

THE JOURNEY 

It was a late Saturday at a party and I randomly met a person. We connected and started talking about soccer but later I didn’t realize that he told me he played for a professional club in Portugal for the first division. His name was Saher Annis and he was a midfielder for the club Adenadia F.C. We were talking a lot about how he made it pro and all the progress he had to do to get there. He said he sacrificed a lot and he explained his whole story about building up relationships and eventually getting a contract but there was one thing he mentioned that really caught my attention. He said: “In order to become a professional player, you must know the right people.” I was pretty shocked to hear this and I immediately asked the question: “What do you mean by that?”  He said: “You have to be around people who make you better. People who are there to help you improve. You can’t hang around the same people who you can dribble past 100 times over and over again, you have to move on and try to face people who you can only dribble past 50% of the time, maybe even 20%, maybe even never. Look for challenges. Stop replaying level 1 and continue off from level 20.”

I was really grateful to hear this because I feel like this is a motive every player should live off. The ability to improve themselves and by using others as their resources. There’s always going to be players better than you. In this world, you must face your challenges and never forget them. That is how you improve yourself as a player. 

A good friend of mine and fellow Wilfrid laurier player Julien Ky also had something to mention about the recent news in the footballing world regarding Mbappe. 

“Mbappe is a great player and all but I must say that he is severely overrated in the sense that he plays in Ligue 1 and far more teenagers his age are progressing in the same type of levels further than him in harsher environments” 

If I were to take a side in this argument that I would totally agree with him because the way things are looking out for Mbappe are not to into the extremes. Yes. Mbappe is an incredible player but if he were to be compared to other players on the same caliber as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi then he must experience different leagues because out of the top five leagues in the world. Ligue 1 is by far the lowest out of all of them. 

Vinicius Junior in my opinion is better then Mbappe in a sense that he is carrying one of the greatest European giants right now in a much challenging standpoint. There has never been another player so young to fill in the role of a 5 time current Ballon D’or winner who left so much behind for one player to carry…

THE PRIZE

Now that we have gone through the requirements for being a professional footballer, we can now go through the contestants for this years Ballon D’or. Many talented footballers have a great chance to win the Ballon D’or this year. The list would be quite large so we shortened it to the top 10 players we think have the greatest chance to win the grand prize starting from the lowest to highest chances.

10. Robert Lewandowski 

The polish striker has been a phenomenon the world class stage for a few years and is no exception when it comes to landing himself on the list as one of the top contenders. Robert Lewandowski plays in the German league Bundesliga 1 for Bayern Munich and has been scoring over 40 goals  and has been Bayern’s biggest contributing goal scorer every season. Lewandowksi isn’t only a sensation for his club but is also the top scorer in the Poland national team having carrying them to many semi/quarter finals and even qualifying them for Euros and World cups. Robert Lewandowksi has also been the lead dominating goal scorer in the Bundesliga for the last 4 years and has won the Polish player of the year award a total of 7 times. This and out of many other record breaking titles this season is the reason why he’s been nominated as a contender for the Ballon D’or. 

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9. Kylian Mbappe

If there’s any wonder-kid that deserves to be a contender for the Ballon D’or then it should be Kylian Mbappe. Lethal at his position and already one of the fastest athletes in the world there is nothing that can stop Mbappe scoring goals at his current club PSG in Ligue Une, France. One of the most agile and dominant strikers this season. Why call Neymar when you have Mbappe. Mbappe who has been a keen replacement for Neymar’s disappearance due to injuries has shown the football world two things:

  1. You don’t need to be 30 to be at your prime 
  2. You don’t have to be at a good team to prove your one of the best in the world

Mbappe hasn’t been on the football scene long but his sudden appearance has really brought attention to everyone who’s a fan of France or football in general. 

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8. Frenkie De Jong 

It was really fast how good De jong has gotten in the season, Playing with Ajax before but now transferring to Barcelona. De jong has been one of the most phenomenal midfielders ever already to play for the Netherlands. Being compared to Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric, and even Lothar Mattheus. It didn’t take long for De jong to rise up and help Ajax extend there Champions League journey till the semi finals. His amazing long passes, defending and skills he’s shown on the pitch really doesn’t make it surprising that Ajax even got that far!

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7. Matthijs De Ligt

Along with De Jong, the superb dutch duo broke their limits during the 2018/2019 champions by marking an incredible start for Ajax. De Ligt officially plays for Juventus in the Serie A and was granted an interaction with Cristiano Ronaldo himself as a private invitation to the club. He has been named one of the best center backs this year as well. Already with an incredible relationship with Georgio Cheillini.

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6. Raheem Sterling 

Raheem Sterling has been in the premier league for a long time now and not only has he been one of the most key assets on any team he’s been on this young star rose to talent so fast as a Liverpool player that now he is doing one of the best performances in 2019 so far making only 20 appearances and scoring 18 goals plus another 5 assists for Manchester City.

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5. Kevin De Bruyne

Another Manchester City player? To be fair, City doesn’t disappoint us when its producing world-class players. Being the best player on Manchester City by far, KDB has been a maestro for the squad in both making plays, being an assistant, creating space, and giving his team an advantage by just being there. KDB’s vision is another thing to talk about itself, with keen and straight passing and over a 89% pass accuracy in every game. It’s no wonder people call him the best midfielder in the world now. Not only for Manchester but as well as for the Belgium national team! Sadly, his injury has stopped him from getting much necessary game-time however his effort and work rate on the field shows that he is such an important player on the pitch. 

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4. Sadio Mane

Liverpool hasn’t always had the best team throughout the years, Being in there ups and downs. The most “clowned team in football” was a common nickname back in the days but it appears that it’s not like that anymore. After signing Sadio Mane, there team completely changed. Sadio Mane arguably the best winger in the world right now has scored 22 goals in total for the 2018/2019 campaign for the reds. That marked his best season yet in his whole career. Not only was that the case but he has successfully has a dribble ratio of 1.3 in the premier league. His dribbling and skills are beyond insane adding with it his speed as he is as well one of the fastest players in the premier league. After hearing all of this, there is no doubt Sadio Mane is a contender for this prize.

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3. Cristiano Ronaldo 

This really shouldn’t be a surprise seeing Cristiano on this list. Throughout the years he has won 5 Ballon D’or, 5 champions league campaigns, scored over 700 goals and 2 FIFA men’s best player of the year and 3 golden boots. Cristianos broken over many records and is prepared to break even more even if its for club or country. His work ethic, his skill, talent is beyond charts and it is only suitable now that he is being compared to among the greatest of legends. 

Last year Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus in Serie A, Italy for a whopping $110 million dollars. His season at Juventus didn’t go the way it planned but Ronaldo still did amazing during his campaign bagging himself a total of 28 goals which isn’t bad. Not only that but having to adjust to a new lifestyle is hard enough with him being at 3 other different leagues in his whole career.

Having been called the best player in the world and being compared to non other than his rival Lionel Messi, Ronaldo is statistically of all time the best Portuguese player in history and might go down as the best player in history?  We will just have to wait…

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2. Lionel Messi

You can’t make a list having Cristiano Ronaldo without Messi, It’s that simple. What can you say about the Argentinian dwarf? Amazing goal ratio by far and has been successfully scoring amazing goals for his team Barcelona. To some people, “the most gifted football player” would be the appropriate term for Messi. Winning the same amount of Ballon D’ors has Ronaldo and 5 golden shoes to add onto that, Messi has been a phenomenon for both club and country as well as major competitions. Crowned the best dribbler in the world. His technical skills are fantastic and he does what he does best on the field when you see him go through 3-4 players without ease. It’s simply what Messi does. 

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1. Virgil Van Dijk 

Im asking the same questions you’re asking as well. “Where did you come from?”, “What did you do?” And, “How did you get up here?”

Virgil Van Dijk is a player from the Netherlands who had the best season of his life this year by being the defender with the most tackles and the highest success rate. He has been exceptionally amazing for his country as they progressed to the finals of the Nations League but lost to Portugal in the finals. Let’s talk a little bit more about Van Dijk’s defending? He won the men’s best award this year for being the best defender of the premier league as well as the word. It’s clear to say that at this point, there’s no one even close to reaching him in terms of achievements on the field when it comes to the art of defense. At this point it’s whether or not how many people Van Dijk has defended against but a competition on which players have dribbled past him. Van Dijk would be my top pick for the Ballon D’or because it’s finally time for French football to realize that not only attackers and midfielders can win but defenders as well. Van Dijk has been voted by many official FIFA counselors, presidents and football pages in general on social media for the top place in the Ballon D’or list. It’s a pretty obvious game up to now but we’ll still have to let the board figure this one out… I’ll just say Van Dijk has a really good chance.

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THE FINAL DECISION

The final decision would eventually have to come down to the directors and the people who work at FIFA but in my utmost opinion. The Ballon D’or would have to switch it gears and award it to a defender this year which would have to be Van Dijk.  His strength and work effort in training and on the field must be awarded. The player he has developed into has to be one of the most perfect examples of progress and what makes a player, really a player? 

I did have one more person to go to to ask for help and this was the professional FIFA MOBILE player that goes by the name of Hunter. He is currently at an overall of 200 this season and is one of the best in the world at VS Attack. I asked Hunter his opinions on the Ballon D’or and this is what I got as a response:

“I feel like it shows who played the best during the season for the year, someone who has had the best performance throughout there season. A person who’s shows wit for the team and is always there for them, and that person is: Pepe. He scored 33 goals for Losc Lilies last season only Messi, Mbappe and Quaglirella contributed more than him which is a lot to say. Overall that just shows how good he is playing if only 3 people have gotten that much goals considering there a lot older than him, that shows he has a promising start.” 

In the end, People have different opinions on what makes a player a good player and these Ballon D’or contenders will also have to see for themselves. The best of attack, midfield, defense and goalkeeper ultimately comes down to one statement: Who is the best player in the world?

We’re going to have to wait to find out.