12 January ~ It's very difficult to argue against the inclusion of Barcelona's supremely talented trio of Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi on the FIFA Ballon D'Or shortlist. But the one man who may have a case for complaint is Wesley Sneijder, of Internazionale and Holland.
Granted, Barcelona are the greatest club team in the world currently. Messi, announced as the winner of the award that has merged the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon D'Or earlier in the week, is befitting of such an honour, and Iniesta and Xavi deserve recognition too. There is an unwritten rule in FIFA that their top personal accolade in a World Cup year should be awarded to whoever influenced the international competition the most. Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, Ronaldo in 2002, Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and Romário in 1994 all seem to adhere to this theory. So quite why Messi won this year's award after his lacklustre showing in South Africa is anyone's guess.
Sneijder, by contrast, led the unfancied Dutch side to the World Cup final, scoring five goals along the way – making him the competition's joint top scorer. It should be noted that two of Sneijder's goals (or just one for the pessimists out there) were scored in the quarter-final upset over Brazil, one of the few highlights of a dreary World Cup. The 26-year-old also picked up four man-of-the-match awards in eight games. Meanwhile, Messi couldn't get a kick as Germany humiliated Argentina.
Now of course, Iniesta and Xavi won the tournament with Spain so no ill-feeling could be construed if they won the Ballon D'Or as a result. Yet they came second and third respectively, with Messi named the winner, presumably on Barcelona's form over the past year? Yet Sneijder's Inter, while nowhere near as glamorous, won the Champions League on top of the Italian league and cup. Their victory may have been built upon solid foundations rather than the Barcelona model of beauty, but regardless they came away from the Camp Nou with a semi-final victory in which Messi was scarcely involved.
Sneijder would have been the first player in history to win a club treble and a World Cup in the same season had his Dutch team-mates crossed the final hurdle. Although this wasn't deemed good enough, he should know that whatever name Sepp Blatter pulls out of an envelope isn't necessarily the most deserving winner. James Dielhenn