Southgate’s FIFA votes for ‘The Best Player’ should concern England

Gareth Southgate is the type of bloke who gets overcome with emotion, at Christmas, upon opening his black socks, each pair labelled with a day of the week; he also brings the exact number of Quality Street chocolates to a party, depending on the number guests.

The bloke is dull beyond, what was initially thought, the realms of possibility.

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Southgate’s dullness was highlighted in FIFA’s ‘no one knows why they’re bothering with these, it’s all about the Ballon d’Or, anyway’ awards night, #TheBest.

It’s always tragically amusing at the politics that goes on in the voting of the international captains and coaches – Ronaldo voted for Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos, whilst Messi wrote down the names of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta?  – so there’s an ounce of credit to be had for Southgate and Rooney for clearly voting with their heads, with no PR party line agendas.

Southgate’s votes for the best player award, did raise a few Carlo Ancelotti eyebrows – 1st Cristiano Ronaldo 2nd Antoine Griezmann 3rd N’Golo Kante – quite simply, Ronaldo and Messi should be everyone’s top two and then there’s a handful of players who can be picked from to make the top five.

There is actually a very good argument to be made for including the former Leicester City midfielder, N’Golo Kante, who has probably been the most consistent Premier League player of 2016. However, football is about excitement, and that is why the likes of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale spring to mind as more ‘worthy’ players to vote for, rather than a bloke whose biggest attribute is topping statistic tables that document how much distance a player has covered.

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Southgate’s voting of a defensive-midfielder is reminiscent of when Roy Hodgson voted for Javier Mascherano as the world’s best footballer. Again, an argument can be made for the Barcelona centre-back to top the pile. However, it was another indication of the direction England are moving in; safe yet underwhelming, no risks but no excitement.

A cautious Football Association has been the Three Lions issue for years; Glenn Hoddle was dull, Kevin Keegan was box office and that backfired, and so the FA retreated into their shells. Post-Keegan, England had managers that would struggle to spell ‘inspire’, let alone actually do it: Sven-Göran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and then Roy Hodgson.

15 years of ineptitude, dullness and regression prompted the nervous Norris’ to stick their head above the parapet and go slightly renegade with Sam Allardyce. But a pint of white wine later, and that had already become a PR disaster, so of course they retreated, and returned to the tried and tested method that avoids all controversy – but also ends all forms of entertainment and success.

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