It’s Ballon d’Or time, aka “Give it to Xavi!”

On Monday, the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or award will be announced. For those who have been living under a rock for lo these many months, one of the finalists will be a Blaugrana. We know this because all of the finalists are from our beloved team: Xavi Hernandez Creus, Andres Iniesta Lujan and Lionel Andres Messi.

This award, created when FIFA World Player of the Year and France Football’s Ballon d’Or merged last year, honors the player who had the best performance over the past calendar year. Like any award, it’s been controversial and is this time as well.

Three players from the same team, when Wesley Sneijder was part of an Inter squad that won everything in front of it? What’s up with that? And then there are the natterings of the Special One, who dares to utter a discouraging word, namely that Iniesta is a brilliant player who doesn’t deserve to be on this list. Why? He was injured and not on form for much of the year and is on this list by virtue of having scored the winning goal at last year’s World Cup.

Further, what does the Ballon d’Or actually represent, when it says “best performing?” Does a defender ever have a chance in hell of winning it? Our very own Carles Puyol was on the nominees list. So was Maicon, and both were extraordinary this past season. And what about keepers? His side didn’t win squat this past season unless you count a World Cup, and how many players had a better season than Iker Casillas?

And while we don’t have any history of this rejiggered Ballon d’Or, the overall history from when it was just a France Football award is that it rewards attacking players. Sure, Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, a defender, won the award in 2006 with a keeper, Gigi Buffon, as runner-up. Yes, it skews to World Cup standouts in Cup years. Duh. The best players in the biggest tournament should get love, say some. But is it really possible for a player who was pretty much nowhere, to Cup his way into a Ballon d’Or? In 2006, an injury-plagued season for Thierry Henry, he tapped in a piddlin’ dozen goals for his club side, Arsenal. But boy, did his Les Bleus show up well at the World Cup, losing to Italy (yes, I’m still bitter) in the final.

So what of Iniesta? Is Mourinho right? Ghostface had 42 appearances last season in all competitions! Yes, he only had one goal, but that’s the fault of the force field, not his individual quality. And he had one hell of a World Cup. So there. But the real question is, who deserves it? Well, in the fine journalistic tradition of NOT burying the lead, the headline gives it away. But let’s briefly have a gander at the finalists.

Messi: Dude had 34 league goals in 35 appearances! How staggering is that strike rate? Add 8 goals in 12 appearances in European competition, and you start to wonder who in the hell had a better year? Toss in a pigpile of assists, and the general acknowledgment that he’s the best player on the planet right now, and what’s the argument against Messi? Well, he was Ballon d’Or winner last year, but his team didn’t hoist Champions League silver and got bounced from the World Cup. And if great players are supposed to show their greatness on the greatest stage, what of that? The award isn’t for being the best, it’s for doing the best, yes? (Insert Sneijder argument here: Coppa Italia, Serie A title, Champions League, World Cup finals). Yes, he was misused by a dunderhead of a coach, etc, etc. Still, it’s hard to make a case for Messi, unless you consider a bucketful of goals, jaw-dropping moves and enduring excellence as a credential.

Iniesta. Sure, he only had 1 goal last year, but he isn’t a scorer. His greatest gift is in facilitating. He makes everyone around him better, either through making a run and sliding a ball over to a fellow attacker, past a stunned, out-of-position defense, or becoming one of the world’s most dangerous playmakers. Like Michael Jordan after he developed a fadeaway jump shot, if you play Iniesta for the pass, he makes the run. Play him for the run, and he kills you with the pass. And with Xavi on the pitch, as was the case during the Barcelona and World Cup seasons, he is even more devastating. And lest anyone forget, there was this little goal in the World Cup that you might have seen. But it’s even harder to make a case for Iniesta, if you assume that this isn’t just a Ballon d’Coupe du Monde award. Once you make that assumption, of the finalists, this only points to one dude ….

Xavi. Many say that Xavi is the best player on the planet, period. Forget about Messi, forget about Thong Boy, forget about anybody else. And shouldn’t the best player be the most consistent? Work your brain for a while to figure out the last truly bad match that you saw Xavi have. And he makes everyone around him better, from attackers (perfect pass? Here ya go.) to defenders (you’ll never see the ball, don’t worry) to keepers (we have the ball, and aren’t giving it up. Go have a drink.) He controls, and is puppet master for two of the best offenses in the world, FC Barcelona’s and the Spanish NT. He won the Liga title, and was crucial in Spain’s World Cup victory. He even popped in 7 goals in all appearances, as if a passing accuracy percentage in the upper 90s wasn’t enough for you. His 19 assists were his highest total ever, and that doesn’t even include the reality that so many of his passes directly lead to assists, such as the perfect ball for Messi during the Copa match vs Athletic Bilbao. For me, this makes Xavi a no-brainer, if you look at the entire season, one that for Xavi encompassed excellence at club and national levels. And I don’t buy sentimental crap such as this is almost certainly his last opportunity to win one. So what. He gets my vote, if I had one, because he had an amazing year. Period.

Agree? Disagree? Lay it on me!

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Helge
    January 7, 2011

    1. Xavi 2. Messi 3. Iniesta

    In my narrow-minded world, there is no room for any other order 🙂

  2. Vj
    January 7, 2011

    Your post is incomplete without the Barca TV video posted by blitzen..

    I love the way how so matter of factly Xavi wants to give to Iniesta..

  3. Soto
    January 7, 2011

    Xavi should win this, hands down. He’s the right player to represent the truth that a great footballer does not have to be flashy or a big goal scorer. Not only did he have a great year, he’s had consistently great years since the Euro 08. And I have no doubt that this award, like so many others in so many fields, often honors more than one years worth of a career.

    Sadly, I agree with Mourinho: Iniesta should not be on the list. Instead, Sneijder should be on here, for his Inter success and for his Dutch success (although they lost, making it to the World Cup final match is still a success).

    • Nik
      January 7, 2011

      Agreed. You can make the case that Sneijder isn’t as talented as Andres (not many are), but his season was better. A little unfair that he was left out of the top three, but that’s how life is sometimes.

  4. Camero
    January 7, 2011

    Hi everyone. Ive been following this blog for sometime but have never really commented before. I think that Messi should win it this year(and all foreseeable years until he is past his prime). Although it would be nice for Xavi to win, I don’t see how Messi does’t deserve it since we can argue that the is probably the greatest of all time, and the past season has been his greatest yet. This past year I have seen Messi play the best and most consistent run of games from any player.

    • January 7, 2011

      Welcome, Camero. Something tells me Messi will have a few more shots.

      • mei
        January 7, 2011

        Camero has a point.
        Ballondor shouldnt be looking at how old a player is , and what are his chances of winning it another time.

        However , xavi was a masterclass and a vocal point for two great achievements of his respectable teams: winning the championship with barcelona , and leading spain to the World Cup glory.

    • Vj
      January 7, 2011

      Xavi has the World Cup which Messi doesn’t.. So I guess he deserves it more..

  5. blitzen
    January 7, 2011

    Xa-vi! Xa-vi! Xa-vi!

    What makes it so hard to choose is that these three play in the same system, but do different things, and complement each other so well. It’s hard to talk about Xavi without comparing him to Iniesta or how when the three of them are on the field at the same time the overall level of team play goes up about 300%. They all are individually brilliant and they all make each other better.

    Having said that, Xavi is my pick for this year. He has been consistently brilliant for both club and country. No one in the world can do what he does. And probably no one ever will again, not in the same way. Awards like this do tend to favour goalscorers, so I really hope that this year recognition is given to a player that controls the game from start to finish. If not now, when?

    Of course I won’t be upset if either Messi or Iniesta wins. They are both amazing as well. Messi is some kind of unique phenomenon. And Iniesta…for my money he is actually the best of them all. I can’t wait to see how his play evolves over the next few years. But if the award is based just on the last season, I think he has the weakest case, World Cup notwithstanding. Not his fault, but injuries do make a difference. Now if he continues at the level he is playing this season, I will be shocked if he isn’t at least a finalist again next year.

  6. lovelymofo
    January 7, 2011

    I think all three are worthy winners. But I kinda hope Iniesta gets it. Just because he’s such a great example of what a player should be like – talented, hard-working, humble. I suppose you could say that about Xavi and Messi too, but I think it would be great for football if someone like Iniesta wins it.

    No denying he didn’t have the best of years, struggling with the death of Jarque, all the injuries, but I think that’s all part of football and Iniesta emerges from all of it just as talented, just as hard-working. And I will admit that he probably wouldn’t be in the running for the Ballon d’Or if it wasn’t for that goal, but it was THE GOAL. The goal that gave Spain their first World Cup, the goal that was as much a result of his talent as it was a result of a year of some painful struggles.

    Anyway, having said all that, I’m not going to be bummed if Xavi gets it. Clearly he deserves it for his continued and sustained excellence. I have a feeling that Iniesta will have more opportunities to get this award and I have no doubt that Messi will win it a few more times.

    It’s actually kind of fantastic that no matter who wins, Barça wins.

  7. Jnice
    January 7, 2011

    Xavi for all the reasons everyone mentioned.

  8. soccermomof4
    January 7, 2011

    This is like asking a mom which one of her three children she loves better…


  9. y2k156
    January 7, 2011

    On one level, i think individual awards in team game are simply not valuable. They do not prove anything and can never be put to test.

    On other level, they are fun to discuss. So here it goes…

    As a player, I think Messi is simply best. Even in world cup, he was most probably the best individual ball player. He might not have scored goals and thats a negative for quite a few people. For me though, he played excellently. Only if Maradona had played with midfielders against Germany but what the point crying over split milk. If the award is for the best player playing currently or over last year, it has to be Messi.

    Awards are subjective though. They might say for best player but best can be defined in different ways. And Xavi has been the epitome of team player over last year. He is heart of the possibly the best club side of all time and is heart of best national team that spain has produced. He is a supreme conductor who creates memorable symphonies. And through last year, he simply has been ridiculously good and consistent. So for my money, he should get it. After all, he deserves it and this might be his last shot. And awards are subjective so for me, the argument that xavi could never be so close is powerful argument.

    Iniesta is another sublime player but for my money, he does not deserve it for last year. Maybe this year he could well take it but last year, there were other contenders with more claim.

    • Víctor
      January 7, 2011

      I do have to agree, Messi played very well in the world cup… sad that he didn’t score goals, but he was definitely the best player of the Argentina team… but of course, as good as he is, he can’t solve everything in the team. (No player can) Argentina lacked someone like Iniesta and Puyol.

    • yuley
      January 7, 2011

      Hi guys, I’m also a new poster here, but I’ve been adoring this blog for quite some time now. So hello 🙂

      I don’t think that individual awards are entirely not valuable, and simply because most teams are not perfect, and don’t always function as one entity as much as a group of talented people that work together well (or less well at times…). And in that group of people one can usually spot the people that are better then the others.
      The fact that we can’t really talk about any of our three contestants without the others, just says how good of a “team” Barca really is. They enhance each other in such a wonderful way that we can’t really talk about them individually. But that’s why we all love ’em so much.
      That is why I believe that in order to distinguish between them we do have to look at those times at which they didn’t play together, i.e. the world cup. So the discussion about it is very relevant.

      And about the whole age thing, even though it is a reward a player should get for his performance for this specific year, I do believe that age IS a thing to consider, can you think of a world in which Xavi never gets the Ballon d’Or? I wish him 20 more wonderful football years, but that’s not going to happen. So he should probably get it sometime or another.

      And besides, I vote for Xavi, simply because he’s amazing and I want to have his babies 🙂

      • Víctor
        January 7, 2011

        The problem is: how do you evaluate it? A team for the best player in a sport that has several positions. Xavi, himself, said it best: who is better Busquets or Puyol? Villa or Casillas? And he makes a great point. You can’t really compare, say, Puyol to Villa.

        • yuley
          January 8, 2011

          What you can do is set some sort of standard for a certain position, based on the performance of those who play in that position. (and I’m not nearly pretentious enough to try and actually define those standards…) If by those standards Puyol is three levels above all other defenders, and villa “just” compares with the best forwards (hypothetically speaking of course), then Puyol should win.
          You can’t compare Puyol’s performance to Villa’s per se, but I guess we can agree that Einstein was a better physicist then the new kid in Sturbucks is a coffee maker…

  10. blitzen
    January 7, 2011

    Hey, Kxevin, why not make a poll???

  11. Tom_Johnson
    January 7, 2011

    It is important not to forget that Ballon D’Or is neither a reward for a lifetime achievement or a popularity contest.

    As always in the year of the World Cup, the key is how much weight to assign to the individual’s performance at that stage.

    Looking at the consistency and the amount of extraordinary over the 12 month period, Messi is the clear winner.

    Xavi was sort of like a flat line the whole year. No spikes of brilliance. At least not nearly as Messi.

    The World Cup being a tournament type of contest, the form of teammates and cohesiveness of the group means even more as opposed to an individual contribution.

    Iniesta simply missed way too much time to be seriously considered. More than a third of the season I believe.

    • blitzen
      January 7, 2011

      Xavi was sort of like a flat line the whole year. No spikes of brilliance.

      That’s because his “flat line” was actually ALL peaks of brilliance! No spike necessary.

      • Tom_Johnson
        January 7, 2011

        That is another way to look at it, yes.

        A very high level of play but I would stop short of calling it brilliance. At least for the better part of the year.

        Luckily, this blog permit us to have different opinions without the obligation to start calling each other names 🙂

  12. Bafanalapagus
    January 7, 2011

    Hi Everyone,
    First time adding my 2 cents, but I’ve been enjoying the site and all the intelligent and constructive comments for a while now. It’s really nice to read people being respectful towards each other’s opinions. Kudos to everyone.
    In all this talk about the Balloon d’or, I’m surprised more people don’t bring up the period in the early months of 2010 – I believe it was then? – when Leo had the most incredible productivity and sheer brilliance of any player I’ve ever seen play. My memory is not so great as it used to be, but didn’t he score like 13 goals in a 6 game period then… and many of them were just miraculous I seem to remember.
    I would love for Xavi to get it simply because he is, and has been, consistently top drawer for many years, or I’d be happy for the wonderful Iniesta, but no one on the planet in 2010 had more flashes of otherworldly-ness than Lionel Messi. His humility, his intelligence, his tenacity, his unselfishness are evident in almost every game. I think he showed again, as he did in 2009, that he was the best player in the world. And for that reason, I feel he should get the trophy.
    But hey, it’s win win for us all…Go Barca!!

    • blitzen
      January 7, 2011

      Welcome to the blog! Looks like registration has brought out lots of great newcomers! 😀

    • January 7, 2011

      Welcome! As noted above, I think that in Cup years, that’s always the decider. And I also think there is some sentimentality in the fact that this is Xavi’s last real shot at the trophy.

      I also think that last year, while Messi had some amazing moments, Xavi was just always on. It’s just that his brilliance rarely makes highlight reels. I think of the passes to Messi and Pedro!! during last season’s Clasic at the Bernabeu. Both perfect, both resulting in goals.

      I just think that he is performing at such a high level right now and has been for some time, devoid of the spikes and valleys that even Messi had.

  13. gowtham
    January 8, 2011

    hey everyone
    hows life been treating y’all?
    so..the moment is at its peak…who shall get the thingy with the gold thingy that is covered in gold:O
    I’m honestly torn between this vote. All three are amazing, humble, special in their own unique way, and most importantly, and example to young ones(take that thong boy).
    I think Xavi should win it because:
    1)he has been CONSISTENTLY performing at the same level for the past 3 to 4 years, regardless of trophies won…
    2)he controls the tempo, rythm, pace, movement of the game, which only a handful of people have ever done and do.
    3) and like noted above, his age is an issue as well, the fact that he is 31 and knowing that he might not get another chance is hard to believe, but life’s a bitch aint it??

    Iniesta,(once again) in my opinion should win it because:
    1)THAT goal
    2)BIG BIG BIG game player.
    3) but the fact that he was injured for most of the season might weigh against him.

    And finally, the man who i think deserves it the most: LIONEL MESSI:
    1)The man is, hands down the best player in the world, and a player that might go on to be recognized as the best of all time
    2) big game player, and he does what a striker is supposed to do and what a midfielder is supposed to do, his strike rate and his assists count was completely mindblowng as well, he showed prowess and capabilities like no one else: from his strike at zaragoza to his four goal haul against arsenal to his back to back hattricks to his 17 goals in 7 games thingy was WTF shit:D
    3)and i find it incredibly harsh to blame to performances of an entire world cup squad on a 23 year old man’s shoulder. He was wicked good in the world cup, but sadly luck was against him and he had a coach that….i wont go there:s

    At the end of the day i hope xavi gets it because i love the man for what he does and who he is, Messi will claim the award atleast another 4 times, if he continues at this rate, and i’m pretty sure Andres will get one too, heck, i would give it to him for 2011, IF, it werent for a certain man who signed his contract on the back of a napkin:D
    anyways guys, no matter who wins, it’ll be a win for OUR team, and with that let me say…VISCA BARCELONA

  14. Barcathegreatestever
    January 8, 2011

    My Personal Opinion
    Messi wins by an even greater margin of votes any other year, setting a new record for most votes.
    Xavi is second for his brilliance in possession, leadership of the teams movements from the center, as well as many characteristics mentioned.
    But my bias is towards the attacking one v one situation, of which only the rarest of of the rare possess at this level. And Iniesta is second only to Messi in his ability to pass defenders in full control.
    Here is a guy who is not tall, not big, not fast, not powerful and can’t score to save his life. He is the shyest and most unassuming of the superstars and defers all credit.
    Yet he is the one of the 3 that has the most wins associated with his starts. He plays bigger and takes more responsibility on as the games become more meaningful. He scored the winner against Chelsea. He controlled the CL final against Man U. OK OK wrong year He was man of the match in 3 games for the world cup and it should have been 4. He scored the world cup winner in overtime for a team always the bridesmaid, always the weakest of the favorites.. Xavi is a great player. Iniesta is a legend and he deserves the accolades associated with it. If Ronaldo or Messi scores the those goals their is no question.
    The Xavi getting old thing is weak. I was preparing never to see Iniesta back in form after injuring the same hamstring 3 times.
    Player of the year Iniesta

  15. Barcathegreatestever
    January 8, 2011

    And I should add that Iniesta wasn’t a part of the Inter away debacle

  16. poipoi
    January 8, 2011

    1-xavi 2-iniesta 3-messi

    xavi best career, iniesta best year (world cup), messi best player/talent … don’t know what they really vote for. give it to xavi! iniesta and messi can get another one a different year

  17. xaviniesta
    January 8, 2011

    if its corrupt fifa-business as usual: iniesta
    if the world were a fair place: xavi
    if it were up to the best player: messi

  18. Phil_Schoen
    January 8, 2011

    Xavi’s metronome-like passing and playmaking are the subtle qualities that earned him a spot as a finalist, let’s see how they hold up to the like of Messi and Iniesta.

    • RayHUDSON
      January 8, 2011

      No way man, our very own chameleon eyes, our cerebral dictator, The brainy orchestrator Xavi needs this award like an octopus needs sunscreen, but believe-you-me Phil, the little magician will walk away with the award looking every bit like Humphrey Bogart walking away with an Oscar. He has been mercurial this year Phil, dictating the team like a general, a Napoleon of football not just for Barcelona but for Spain too. He has fairies in his feet and mermaids in his ears, reward his kaleidoscope vision with the award so he can take it home for his mum to put on display in their house….

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