Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or triumph looks odds on

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Lionel Messi is strongly fancied to win the Ballon d'Or for a fifth successive year
Lionel Messi is strongly fancied to win the Ballon d'Or for a fifth successive year

Imagine Philip Lahm winning Fifa's Ballon d'Or this year. Well, 'imagining' is about as far as it goes.

The German has no chance, even though his claims are impeccable; he led Bayern Munich to the Treble, made his 100th appearance for his country, switched brilliantly from right back to midfield and rarely ever has a bad game.

But he isn't a striker or attacking midfielder, so he's toast. Only a couple of defenders have won since 1966 – and the last goalkeeper to be voted the world's best player was Lev Yashin, when I was in nappies.

Ronaldo? Well, with 49 goals from 42 matches this calendar year you have to say he has a great chance of snatching the trophy away from you-know-who.

But hold on a minute... it isn't usually awarded to someone whose club doesn't win anything significant.

Poor Roni must be wondering what he has to do to get his beautifully manicured fingers on that gleaming ball.

So let's go back to Bayern. Okay, Lahm's not going to get the vote, but you'd think Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery might be in with a chance.

One could contend that Bayern, despite their collective brilliance, would not have won the Champions League last season without the inspirational Robben.

Ribery, however, was the Bundesliga player of the year and Bayern fans will argue he's every bit as good as the Dutchman – and can put in 'a shift' as well.

But it's odds-on that the wee man from Barcelona will walk away with it for a fifth successive year, even though he's had, by his standards, an unremarkable 12 months.

Lionel Messi's 'standards' are, however, jaw-dropping.

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