Category Archives: Euro 2016

Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) France Football 2016 – The Case for Lionel Messi

Last week, Cristiano Ronaldo was crowned winner of the Ballon d’Or 2016 (the fourth of his career) ahead of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. While I congratulate the Portuguese winger for his success, I do not agree with the decision and I would like either a reform of the trophy or simply put, a repeal of it. And there are several reasons why.

Earlier this year, France Football (a French football magazine whom created the trophy and distributed it for decades) and FIFA parted ways with the gala and the trophy, which meant full control of the criterias by the magazine and the hope that we would have more winners and more diversity. Well, it seems like France Football picked up exactly where FIFA left off and awarded the Ballon d’Or to a player who is very good, with great statistics, four trophies won, but ultimately was not the best player in 2016, in my opinion.

I even doubt that he was he second best, even third best (Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez could have been in front of him in 2016). I have ranked Lionel Andrès Messi first because of his complete performance (with club and country) from January 1st to the end date of the voting (November 27th). Goals, assists, chances created, trophies won and runner-up, Messi was, once again, in a league of his own.

While CR7 has been very good as mentioned, created his share of chances and won several important trophies during the year, he was also helped by his teammates while struggling to make an impression on the big stage (UEFA Champions League and European Championship finals) or being absent (UEFA SuperCup). Real Madrid CF won the Champions League final against Atlético Madrid FC on penalties where Ronaldo was invisible the whole game. He eventually dispatched of the winning penalty (only Juanfran from Atlético missed his during the penalty kicks).

Ronaldo didn’t have a great European Championship, missing several scoring chances, missing an important penalty versus Iceland if I recall with his country barely qualifying for the round of 16 in a group where they were largely favourites to win and featuring a mere twenty minutes in the final. His attitude during the whole tournament was unworthy of a “superstar” like him as well. The man of the tournament was French striker Antoine Griezmann.

Lionel Messi won the domestic double (LaLiga BBVA and the Spanish Cup). He was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Atlético de Madrid FC in the UEFA Champions League, but led Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final lost on penalties to Chile for the second year in a row. Messi, having a superb tournament, missed his penalty kick during the shootout session.

In his return to Europe, him and FC Barcelona lifted the Spanish SuperCup versus Sevilla FC, adding a third domestic trophy to his cabinet for the year. His statistics were excellent through the year as you can regularly see in my blog. He outscored, “outassisted” by 16 assists, Cristiano Ronaldo. He created more chances and showed (as usual) more team spirit and more engagement than the Portuguese international.

All this leads me to ask…what is the Ballon d’Or’s purpose? Do we reward the best player of the calendar year? Of the season? Is it a popularity contest? Do we simply attribute the trophy based on winning the FIFA World Cup, Champions League and/or the European Championship despite not being the best player of the tournament or even the team (Nani, Pepe, a Champions League winner as well this year, Ricardo Quaresma, Rui Patricio and others were excellent and clutch during the tournament for La Seleção and let’s not forget Lille player Eder who put the nail in the coffin to clinch the title)?

Last, but not least, it may not be a good idea to hand out a trophy right in the middle of a season. After all, trophies are given at the end generally.

Messi vs. Ronaldo (Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or France Football) – Week 49

The Ballon d’Or France Football will be awarded tomorrow in annual gala by football magazine France Football who re-gained the rights to the trophy thanks to their disassociation with FIFA earlier this year. The three favourites, not finalists, for the trophy are FC Barcelona/Argentina player Lionel Messi (the holder and record five-time winner), Real Madrid CF/Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo (three-time winner and favourite to win it this year) and Atlético de Madrid FC/French international striker Antoine Griezmann (first-time finalist).

Here are the updated statistics between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo including this weekend’s action which saw La Pulga increase his goal tally by two goals in a win at Osasuna (3-0), while the Portuguese winger was rested by Zinedine Zidane against Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña in a last-minute victory by Los Merengues/Blancos.

L. Messi 61 games 58 goals 32 assists 3 trophies won
– La Liga BBVA
– La Copa del Rey
– Spanish Supercup
C. Ronaldo 55 games 51 goals 17 assists 3 trophies won
– UEFA Champions League
– UEFA European Championship
– UEFA SuperCup
Total Messi 6 games Messi 7 goals Messi 15 assists Tie

The Ballon d’Or France Football will need to be reformed in order to gain more credibility, in my opinion. Lionel Messi should win tomorrow based on many factors that point in his favour, but Cristiano Ronaldo will lift the trophy. And that is the problem with the current format with or without FIFA involved.

Stay tuned…

Lionel Messi – Ballon d’Or 2016 (Golden Ball 2016)

We are as few weeks away before the voting ends and there should be no doubt that Lionel Andres Messi from FC Barcelona should be the clear favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this year. Here are the numbers (remember that the trophy is judged based on a calendar year, from January 1st to the last day of voting):

Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona, Argentina)
Games – 51
Goals – 49
Assists – 29
Trophies – 3 (La Liga, Copa del Rey, Spanish SuperCup; 1 final – Copa America Centenario)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF, Portugal)
Games – 45
Goals – 41
Assists – 15
Trophies – 3 (UEFA Champions League, UEFA European Championship, UEFA SuperCup).

The difference is simply staggering. Ronaldo may have won the most prestigious trophies this year, but his performances have not been so great. He did not even feature more than 8 minutes in the final against France before being substituted in the 26th minute. His display vs. Atlético de Madrid in the Champions League final was almost invisible despite dispatching of the winning spot kick in the penalty shootout that occurred and he did not even feature in the UEFA SuperCup final won in the last minutes of the game vs. Sevilla FC.

Lionel Messi won the domestic double with his club, was clutch when the moment was needed. Elevated his game in La Copa America Centenario lost on penalties vs. Chili for the second year in a row (and we see currently see the difference when La Pulga plays for La Albiceleste and when he does not). Since the season has begun, despite missing a few games via injuries, he is simply untouchable with goals and assists in plenty. Messi is probably having his best beginning of a season ever.

France Football and FIFA have disassociated themselves, a few weeks ago, from the Ballon d’Or meaning that the French newspaper will dictate its previous formula once again. Will it be enough to see the Messi vs. Ronaldo saga end and another winner coming forward? We shall see. This year, Messi has been the best so far and deserves his sixth Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or.

Why Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo (and will always be)

After the aftermath the UEFA European Championship in which Portugal, an unlikely winner, clinched its first international professional trophy, there were several praises for Cristiano Ronaldo, the captain of the national squad. Some deserved, some not. At the end of the day, despite the win, football fans should not forget that Lionel Messi was involved in another continental competition, la Copa America Centenario, a little earlier this summer and led his country to the final against the defending champion and, despite started the competition and on the bench injured, managed to tear the competition apart (5 goals, 4 assists in 5 games, 3 games started). Argentina ultimately lost on penalty kicks against Chile, for the second year in a row.

If Gonzalo Higuain would have been able to do to Chile and Claudio Bravo what Eder has done to France and Hugo Lloris in the final, Argentina may have won its first senior trophy since 1993, Lionel Messi would finally win a professional trophy with La Albiceleste, and critics would not have been so harsh and cruel versus the Argentine superstar, five-time Ballon d’Or winner and on the receiving end of countless individual and collective honours during his career, which started officially in 2004.

While CR7 is older and started his career a few seasons before Leo Messi, there is no doubt in my mind that La Pulga is the better player. While the former is physical phenomenon, a great header of the ball, and goal-scoring machine (especially since joining La Liga Santander) and without a doubt one of the best player of the last 20 years, Messi can do pretty everything on a football pitch. The little man can score, assist, pass the ball, direct the play and play in numerous positions with efficiency. We have seen Messi play as a number 10, 9, 9 and a half, as a winger and even as a number six (versus Germany in 2010 was shocking to see). He is up there with the likes of Pelé, Diego Armando Maradona, Garrincha, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff. His simplification of the game and the fear that he strikes towards his opponents are simply baffling, while Ronaldo has often been absent during big games and Portugal’s victory in the final without their captain plus Real Madrid CF’s penalty kicks win against their local rivals, Atlético de Madrid, in the Champions League final with an absent and inefficient number 7 can testify furthermore of this fact.

The statistics, the silverware won and the impact on the pitch do not lie. Lionel Andres Messi is currently the best footballer on the planet and the question should be: where will he rank in the history of the game when his career will end.

And he should be the current favourite for the Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or 2016 if you look at statistics and honours won so far for the calendar year.

Messi vs. Ronaldo (FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 28-29

The 2016 European Championship ended on July 10th with Portugal winning 1-0 in extra time against the host nation, France. Eder scored the only goal of the match to clinch Portugal’s first international title.

For Cristiano Ronaldo, who was injured in the 8th minute and was substituted minutes after the incident with French playmaker, Dimitri Payet, it is a first trophy with the national squad for the native of Madeira.

Week 28 and 29 – here are the updated statistics between the two FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or collectors from January 01st to July 17th, 2016:

L. Messi 39 games 34 goals 23 assists 2 trophies won
C. Ronaldo 35 games 32 goals 11 assists 2 trophies won
Total Messi 4 games Messi 2 goals Messi 12 assists Tie

Stay tuned….

Messi vs. Ronaldo (FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 27

While Lionel Messi is done playing international football with Argentina (for the summer (he is not scheduled to appear in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics Games soccer tournament in August), Cristiano Ronaldo is still alive with Portugal at the Euro 2016, thanks to penalty shootout win versus Poland in the quarterfinals of the competition. CR7, despite not appearing on the scoresheet again in this tournament, still managed to score his spot kick and help his country to a third European Championship semi-final appearance in the last four editions.

Week 27 – here are the updated statistics between the two FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or collectors:

L. Messi 39 games 34 goals 23 assists 2 trophies won
C. Ronaldo 33 games 31 goals 10 assists 1 trophy won
Total Messi 6 games Messi 3 goals Messi 13 assists Messi 1 trophy

Stay tuned….

Messi vs. Ronaldo (FIFA Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 24-26

Lionel Messi and Argentina reached the final of La Copa America Centenario versus Chile last Sunday and once again, lost on penalties. Which means that La Pulga is still in search of his first senior’s title with La Albiceleste. Messi compiled an impressive 5 goals and 4 assists in five games during the tournament (he was a substitute against Panama and Bolivia in the group stage).

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have reached the Quarterfinals of the Euro 2016 in their Round of 16 match against Croatia thanks to a late goal, in extra-time, by Ricardo Quaresma. CR7, so far, has had two goals in four games in the competition.

Here are the stats from January 01st to June 28th, 2016 between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (including all competitions from club to country):

L. Messi 39 games 34 goals 23 assists 2 trophies won
C. Ronaldo 32 games 31 goals 10 assists 1 trophy won
Total Messi 7 games Messi 3 goals Messi 13 assists Messi 1 trophy

Stay tuned….

Cristiano Ronaldo and the Euros

The Portuguese superstar, fresh winner of his third Champions League medal, will feature in his fourth European championship, in France this year. Here are his results:

2004 – Loss in the final against Greece, in Portugal, 1-0.

2008 – Quarterfinal loss versus Germany, 3-1, in Austria/Switzerland.

2012 – Semifinal loss against future champions, Spain, on the penalty kicks (0-0, 5-3 a.e.t.), in Poland/Ukraine.

2016 – ?

Portugal, despite difficult results in recent tournaments, has always been a difficult team to play against. At some point, during the last decade, boasting players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Deco, Maniche, Rui Costa, Vitor Baía, Costinha, Pauleta, Ricardo Carvalho and others, the country of the late Eusebio was very close to actually win the 2004 UEFA European Championship at home (see the result above) and the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany (losing to France, 1-0, in the semifinal).

Although, I do not expect the Portuguese national squad to win it all this year, I would not be surprise if they make a good run and goes good deep in the tournament.

Unfortunately, the lack of depth will probably be a major key, especially if facing teams such as Germany, France, Belgium or Spain.

Stay tuned…

Messi vs. Ronaldo (Golden Ball/Ballon d’Or) – Week 22

This is it. The end of the season has arrived with the Champions League final at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza behind us. Real Madrid CF won their record 11th European Cup title thanks to a penalty shootout versus local and arch-rivals, Club Atlético de Madrid (1-1. 5-3 after extra time). Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning penalty kick, but was invisible for most of the game and was kept off the scoresheet on that one. He adds another Champions League winning medal, his third (one with Manchester United FC and two with Real Madrid CF).

As for Lionel Messi, the Argentine captain and his teammates prepare themselves for la Copa America Centenario due to begin one June 03rd. La Albiceleste played and won a friendly match against Honduras, 1-0, with a superb goal from SSC Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain. Messi was kept off the scoresheet and left the game with what appeared to be a lower-back injury.

Here are the stats from January 01st to May 30th, 2016 between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

L. Messi 34 games 29 goals 18 assists 2 trophies won
C. Ronaldo 27 games 27 goals 8 assists 1 trophy won
Total Messi 7 games Messi 2 goals Messi 10 assists Messi 1 trophy

Euro 2016 – Will France Win It ?

The European Championship is coming this Summer and France is hosting it for third time since its introduction in 1960. It has won it twice in the past (1984 at home and 2000 in Belgium/The Netherlands). Both times, the squad was led with legends as Michel Platini in 1984 and Zinedine Zidane in 2000. Nowadays, a young French team led by a natural born leader and trophy laden player, Didier Deschamps, hopes to finally get back to winning ways after about a decade of difficulties coinciding with the retirement of Zidane in 2006 after the FIFA World Cup Final.

This time, it appears that that France is not only loaded with talent but are angry to put e past behind them and make the most out their oppportunity at home. That could potentially culminate in lifting the trophy for a record third time (along with Germany and Spain). Players such as Paul Pogba (Juventus FC), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid CF), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspurs), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), the return of former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra (Olympique Marseille), Blaise Matuidi (Paris-SG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal FC), Patrice Evra (Juventus FC), Anthony Martial (Manchester United FC)  and a few others will constitute the backbone of a team that the French supporters hope will lead them to silverware on July 10th, when the final will kick-off.

Other countries will have their say in France…

Spain is the current title holder and after a disastrous World Cup compaign which saw them being humiliated by The Netherlands 5-1 and then eliminated by Chile 2-0, they would want to prove that this page of their history was simply an accident. Despite losing key players to retirement such as Xavi, David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Carlos Puyol.

Germany. The current FIFA World Cup holders will be looking at making the double in France (World Cup and Euro back-to-back). A few key players have left the national squad though such as Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich FC) and Miroslav Klose (SS Lazio). They can still bank on tremendous talent such as Marco Reus, Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich FC), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich FC), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich FC), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich FC), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), to name a few. Will it be enough for “Die Mannschaft”? We shall see.

Countries such as Italy, England, Portugal can never be underestimated in international competititons and squads as Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia can always surprise. But if a country has to be taken very seriously this summer, it has to be Belgium. I would not be surprised if this is the national team that surprises France and wins their first European Championship. The squad is simply full with top talent in almost several positions of the field/pitch. Thibault Courtois (Chelsea FC), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City FC), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City FC),Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United FC), Dries Merterns (SSC Napoli), Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Romelu Lukaku (Everton FC), Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma) etc. A very impressive list of fine players who just might be ready,in time, to lift a trophy and create history.

Stay tuned…