It’s official, the 2016 Ballon d’Or goes to the one, the only, Cristiano Ronaldo, and boy does he know he deserves it. Yes, he did manage to win the Champions League with Real Madrid this season, as well as the Europa League with Portugal, and it can’t be argued that anyone had more of an offensive impact on soccer this year apart from maybe Messi and Suarez, though they failed to win such prestigious trophies.
However, what really gets to me is that in the history of the award, only three defenders have been honoured by FIFA, and even worse, only one goalkeeper (Lev Yashin).
Let me first say, that as a goalkeeper myself, I can admit to being a little biased on the subject. The goalkeeper and the defence are the last line of safety. If everyone else in front of them fails to win the ball or at least stop its progression, then all the heads turn to the big bruisers in the back, whether it’s three or four (or even six in that line if your West Brom), plus the keeper.
The game is one and lost in the back as much as it is at the top of the formation, simply without the opportunity to celebrate said heroics. If anything, these are the players that put the most on the line for their team, either diving into perilous challenges or throwing themselves through the air towards a large metal beam in order to keep out a goal. It is a forgotten art of the game to some extent, defending and goalkeeping. When I think about the main complaints I hear about soccer in America, it always centers around the idea that there aren’t enough goals scored… well that is because there are some great defenders and keepers out there doing their job at the highest level.
The best teams, the most successful teams, tend to be built from the back forward, focusing on developing a strong understanding between defense and goalkeeper, working up from there. Take a look at how Manchester City have performed this season without their first choice centre-backs and a good goalkeeper, and how poorly Manchester United would have done the last three years without star man David de Gea.
All I am saying is that it is time goalkeepers and defenders made it high up on the list. While Ronaldo and Messi are at their peaks, there is no doubt that they will keep winning the trophy, but just because three minute highlight reels are filled with goals and celebrations, and don’t show you all the important tackles and major saves made by the men at the back doesn’t mean that these players should be forgotten for such honors. If I were in charge of the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo would have won, but David De Gea, Leonardo Bonucci, and Diego Godin would have definitely made it in my top ten.