Ballon d’or/Golden Ball 2017 – Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo (Week 23)

The season 2016-17 is officially over with Real Madrid CF lifting the Champions League trophy for a second year in a row.  Cristiano Ronaldo added to his yearly tally with two goals during this final and leapfrogged Lionel Messi as the best scorer of this season’s edition of the Champions League with 12 goals.

Both players were also on international duty last week with Ronaldo scoring a brace to lead Portugal to a 3-0 win versus Latvia in UEFA World Cup qualifier while Messi was kept off the score-sheet during a friendly match won by Argentina versus arch-rivals Brazil in Melbourne, Australia.

After 23 weeks into 2017, the statistics between the two giants of football look like this and Ronaldo is coming back:

Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo
Games 34 30
Goals 32 31
Assists 8 7
Trophies 2
(Copa del Rey, European Golden Shoe)
2
(La Liga Santander, UEFA Champions League)
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Real Madrid CF – 2016-17 Champions League Winners

Congratulations on Real Madrid CF for winning this year’s trophy and their unprecedented 12th title.  This final was never really in doubt for Los Merengues and manager Zinedine Zidane has a lot of credit to take for this victory and for clinching La Liga title that preceded this triumph.

Even though Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace and is now in pole position to win a fifth Ballon d’Or, let’s remember that the appointment of “Zizou” as the manager of Real Madrid CF in January 2016 has changed a lot of things.  At the time, under Rafael Benitez, Los Blancos, despite not having a bad record, lost a few games such a 4-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu against arch-rivals, FC Barcelona.

President Fiorentino Perez, never shy of “pulling the trigger” when it comes time to making a manager’s change, decided to give the keys to the man who was coaching Real Madrid B team at the time.  The results since that then have been nothing short but spectacular.  Los Blancos made a run to win La Liga title up until the end of the last season, only to witness FC Barcelona win at the end.  They’ve also reached the Champions League final and beat Atlético de Madrid on penalty kicks for their 11th Champions League triumph.  This season, they’ve won La Liga (for the first time since 2012, under José Mourinho) and became the first team ever to repeat as Champions League winners.  A double.

Can Real Madrid achieve the same amount of success next and for years to come?  We shall see.  Until today, with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, it has been all business for La Casa Blanca.

Stay tuned…

FIFA World Cup 2018 – Who Will Win It?

One year away.  We are one year away from the beginning of the most popular competition in the world of sports, the FIFA World Cup.  It seems like yesterday witnessing Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, in 2014 in front of their home fans.  This match shook the world.

It also seemed like a recent memory looking at Lionel Messi, after Argentina lost in extra-time to those same Germans 1-0, dejected after accepting the Golden Ball award for the best player of the competition.

Qualifications are still underway and we still may be surprised if some teams can qualify or not for this World Cup, which will host for first time 48 countries instead of 32.

Argentina, for example, is currently in big trouble, being fifth in the standings and with Lionel Messi still has to serve three of a four match ban imposed by FIFA (La Pulga and Argentina Futbol Association have appealed the decision and will meet with FIFA during the summer to reduce the suspension).

European nations have won the World Cup three times in a row now starting with Italy in 2006.  Spain followed in 2010 and Germany in 2014.  In the history of the game, it would generally be one European country followed by one South America side.  After all, Brazil has five stars on their shirt, Argentina and Uruguay 2 each, making it 9 Word Cups in total.

My money is on a South American country to win it all next summer and despite the fact that Brazil has been the first country to earn its ticket to the big dance along with already qualified Russia, my prediction is the following:

Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, raises its third World Cup and the FC Barcelona genius cements his status as probably the best player to ever grace a football pitch.

Stay tuned…