Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 countdown: Fifa nominee Pep Guardiola is great, but in 2015 Michael O'Neill was better

By Steven Beacom

First the good news. Unlike last year, the IFA DID send their 2015 ballots on time meaning the selections of Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis were included in the Ballon d'Or vote.

We will know who O'Neill and Davis chose once the results are revealed in January with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar fighting it out for the world's best player award.

Now for the disappointing news and yesterday's announcement of the finalists for the 2015 Fifa World (Men's) Coach of the Year.

Somehow Northern Ireland boss O'Neill didn't make the top 10 nominees in this category, so he was never going to be in the three-man shortlist for the prize, but the inclusion of Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola raises eyebrows.

Luis Enrique merits his place for leading Barcelona to Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey success, while Jorge Sampaoli is another worthy contender having guided Chile to their first ever Copa America triumph, but Guardiola had a fine year rather than a fantastic one.

He led Bayern to Bundesliga glory, but let's face it, if Munich don't win the title, it is viewed as a huge failure so in 2015 Guardiola only did what was expected of him.

Of course Guardiola is a magnificent manager, but surely O'Neill was more successful guiding his team to the Euro 2016 finals - the country's first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

Very few expected that. And remember, Northern Ireland made it to France in style by qualifying top of their group. O'Neill has done a staggering job this year, given that in the previous campaign Northern Ireland couldn't beat Luxembourg or Azerbaijan.

The award is based on votes from coaches and captains of international teams and journalists from around the world. Clearly they forgot about O'Neill, who was passed over on the initial 10-man list for the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, who won nothing at Real Madrid, and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, who won the FA Cup.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri, who won Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup plus reached the Champions League final, was among the 10, but will wonder why he didn't make the three. As for O'Neill, expect other awards to come his way this year.

Belfast Telegraph