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European Footballer of the Year Candidates
Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón announced that his new Italian central defender Fabio Cannavaro had won the prestigious Ballon d’Or and would replace Ronaldinho as European Footballer of the Year. This surprised many and raised more than one eyebrow. Not because of the fact that Cannavaro had been selected, let alone because of his dominating displays during the World Cup, but because of the fact that the winner of the much-touted award isn’t announced until November 27. Surely this means one of two things. The first of which is that France Football, the magazine that actually hosts the award, has a mole in the camp and needs to seriously beef up its security, alternatively Mr. Calderon lives up to Madridista traditions and fills the columns of the newspapers with self-satisfied comments. propaganda.
If what Calderón wanted was a media frenzy, then he will be a happy man. The Italian newspapers were quick to announce: “Cannavaro, everything is true.” (Gazzetta dello Sport) and: “Golden Ball for Cannavaro”. (Corriere della Sera). Despite the excitable nature of the Italian media, it would appear that the matter is settled and dusted off. Which would change the purpose of this article from a preview of the favorites to a selection of the almost men. However, the famous trophy is not yet causing feng shui difficulties for the Italian patron at chez Cannavaro, so I will continue with my initial intentions.
The Ballon d’Or was created in 1956 by the magazine France Football. At a time when Europe had begun to emerge from the hangover of World War II a decade earlier, and soccer was enjoying its progression as a global game. The inaugural European Cup (now known as the UEFA Champions League) was played in the same year, and Blackpool winger Stanley Matthews was declared Europe’s first Player of the Year. In the years that followed, the awards were dominated by conquering Madrid, with their striker Alfredo di Stefano claiming the title twice. The very idea of the award demonstrated that football was now a sport that could unite people from different countries, such an important factor considering that much of the continent had been a battleground just over a decade earlier. Despite being held by France’s leading soccer publication, the award is based on the considered opinion of journalists from across Europe.
The award has been distributed fairly evenly among the leading figures in European club football over the years, with Juventus leading the way with a total of eight winners (a total that could well have been expanded further had they not intervened). the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal), AC is followed by Milan (seven), Barcelona (six), Real Madrid (five) and Bayern Munich (five). Of course, we must keep in mind that the awards ceremony is traditionally held in November each year, so many victorious players may have been in new clubs at the time of the awards, having won the plaudits that lead to the prize elsewhere. (both Luis Figo and Ronaldo are examples of this, having moved to Madrid only a few months before the presentation). The only major change to the award since it began came in 1995 when it was decreed that the winner need not be of European nationality, just have their contract held by a club under UEFA jurisdiction (much to the delight of the Liberian striker George Weah, who took full advantage of the rule change in 1995).
An obvious starting point for such an award would be to pick up where we left off last year. Brazil’s Ronaldinho, who won last year’s award (to sit proudly on the mantel next to his World Player of the Year award) to reconfirm him as the best player on the planet. The Barcelonan, for his very high level, had a disappointing year. Despite adding the Champions League to his medal collection, he was relatively below par at the World Cup (a competition that can generally be considered the deciding factor for the award) as his Brazilian team (and favorites before the tournament) were left limping into the World Cup. the quarterfinals have been widely tipped to take a sixth title. Of his compatriots, only Kaká truly shone in Germany and, sadly, the AC Milan striker ended the season without a medal despite enhancing his growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with in world football and a potential future award winner.
As we’ve discussed above, major tournaments often have a big impact on who’s going to be paid. Take, for example, Ronaldo’s 2002 Ballon d’Or. After another injury-plagued season in Italy with Internazionale, the phenominon (as he’s known to his fans) lit up in the Far East to help Brazil claim a fifth World. Copa, scoring an incredible eight goals along the way and exorcizing some of the demons from their break in the 1998 competition. Although many commented that surely seven games does not make a season, Ronaldo, who had since joined the Galacticos from Madrid, he took the coveted prize.
From this theory, we can assume that this year’s winner will probably come from Italy. As mentioned above, all this talk is pretty much irrelevant as Fabio Cannavaro has been, though not yet confirmed, declared the winner by his club president. Actually, if this were the case, few could argue. The Italian captain was a lion at the heart of Italy’s formidable defense that sparked ‘campione del mondo’ (‘world champions’) headlines across the Mediterranean peninsula. However, the 33-year-old former Juventus player doesn’t get as excited as his president (at least not before the famous ‘fat’ has had her moment). Cannavaro has said: “Of course I would like to win it. It would be wonderful and very rewarding on a personal level.”
In addition to the man from Madrid, Italy can boast strong claims to the prize through midfielder Andrea Pirlo and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Pirlo, during the previous season with Milan, and the World Cup with his nation, enhanced the reputation that he had, at least in his early career, threatened without ever reaching it. Some superb displays in the heart of the Azzuri midfield raised Pirlo’s profile to rank among the best on the continent in his position, though a lack of success on the home front may have cost him. However, the most interesting are the calls for the prize to be awarded to Gigi Buffon. The Juventus and Italy goalkeeper has long been considered the best in the world in his position. In Germany, Buffon further embellished this claim. Some heroic performances, most notably in the semi-final against the hosts and his performance in saving penalties to claim the trophy in the final, credited him with becoming only the second goalkeeper to win the award. By claiming the Ballon d’Or, he would really be claiming a place among the greats, as the only other ‘number one’ to win the award was Russia’s Lev Yashin in 1963. He is also supported by Italy legend and former footballer European. of the Year, Gianni Rivera. Upon learning of Cannavaro’s premature victory, Rivera proclaimed: “I would have chosen Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, but if it’s true that Fabio is going to win it, I’m happy anyway.”
If the Ballon d’Or goes to Italy, it will be the country’s fourth winner after Rivera himself (1969), Paolo Rossi (1982) and Roberto Baggio (1993).
However, not everyone agrees that the award should go to an Italian. On hearing Ramón Calderón’s claims, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacted in typically defiant fashion: “Congratulations to Cannavaro if that’s the case,” Wenger said on Friday. “But for me there is only one candidate this year, it is Thierry Henry. He deserves it.”
In hindsight, this is a fair argument. Henry appeared in both of world soccer’s main events during 2006 and despite being on the losing side in both the World Cup and Champions League finals, reaching both is a testament to the man. Henry is widely considered to be the best striker in world soccer in recent seasons. Always the top marksman in the English Premiership and considered one of the best to ever walk these shores, so perhaps, for once, Mr Wenger has seen something, and he went on to say: “What do you have to do? Just keep going. Sometimes you get the reward when you least expect it. That’s also the sign of a super champion.”
Other potential contenders are pretty sparse on the ground. Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o was in his prime helping propel his team to titles in both La Liga and the Champions League, although not appearing at the summer football festival due to Cameroon failing to qualify didn’t help. to his cause, and neither did he. the long-term knee injury that will keep the striker sidelined until the new year. The Portuguese midfielder Deco is another of those who has been mentioned in relation to the award. The diminutive string puller was considered to have been, if not more, vital than Ronaldinho to Barcelona’s success last term. Another option, and for the romantics, would be for the award to go to Zinedine Zidane. The mercurial Frenchman finally hung up his golden boots over the summer after dragging his nation to the final. Some commanding performances from what di Stefano dubbed ‘the maestro’ earned Zizou the World Cup Ballon d’Or for being the tournament’s most outstanding player. However, we all know how he ended up and, headers aside, the midfielder had a relatively poor season with Real Madrid.
With everything considered, I feel like I’m largely talking about the competitors in a race already won. From a personal perspective, I find this somewhat disappointing as this seems to be the closest competition for the award in a long time. It’s not that I don’t perceive Cannavaro as a worthy winner, we have to go back to Franz Beckenbauer in 1976 to find our last defender to win the award in an honor roll dominated by players more accustomed to creating and scoring. goals instead of stopping them. Similarly, it would seem that given our three perceived favorites of Cannavaro, Buffon and Henry, only one is a striker. Perhaps a reflection of the changing face of soccer? Perhaps simply a reflection of an Italian World Cup victory? Either way, it is sad to me that such a prestigious award is not announced with all the pomp and ceremony that the eventual winner would undoubtedly deserve.
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