The Libero - Sneijder's form for club and country deserves Ballon d'Or
Published: 27 Oct 2010 - 07:52:17
The 23-man short-list for the Ballon d'Or has been announced and unsurprisingly, given that it is a World Cup year, the nominations are skewed heavily towards those who starred at the tournament in South Africa.
No less than seven of Spain's victorious side have been put forward, including Xavi and Andres Iniesta, both of whom are rightly among the favourites to claim the prize when the results of the poll are announced at a glitzy ceremony in Zurich in the New Year.
The midfield pair have both enjoyed phenomenal seasons, guiding Barcelona to a 20th Spanish league title in May before lifting the World Cup in Johannesburg a few months later, Iniesta himself sealing victory with his late and memorable strike. A domestic and international double - not a bad haul by any stretch.
But neither player should win the Ballon d'Or this year. Nor should their Barca team-mate and current holder of the title Lionel Messi.
No, the honour must go to a player who far outshone them in terms of club football this season - and one who only just came second best in South Africa: Wesley Sneijder.
The Dutch maestro will surely never enjoy a better year.
Having been snapped up by Internazionale for a bargain price of 15 million euros before the start of last season, he was instrumental in the Nerazzurri's brilliant European Treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League, an unprecedented feat in Italy and only ever achieved five times before on this continent.
Despite having languished on the bench for much of his second season at Real Madrid, he made the transition from La Liga to Serie A seamlessly, revelling in the new-found faith put in him by the ever-astute Jose Mourinho.
Inter fans immediately took to him, not only for his goals and ability from set-pieces but also for his work rate and deadly accurate passing game, which unlocked many a top quality defence over the course of what proved to be a long season for him.
Not satisfied with that club trophy haul though, Sneijder then put in a series of exceptional performances at the World Cup which only served to reinforce his status as one of, if not the best player on the planet.
Sneijder's five goals helped catapult Holland into the final and although his team-mates did him no favours with their attempts at foiling Spain in that brutal game (it should be noted though that Sneijder was, along with Dirk Kuyt, the only Dutch player not to pick up a booking), he still came second in the voting for the Golden Ball.
Xavi and Iniesta both failed to make the top three with Diego Forlan taking top billing and David Villa third. Clearly, Sneijder had already proved his individual class over the course of the tournament and FIFA's technical panel knew it.
And when his performances at club level are also taken into account, the journalists whose votes count in January will also know it: Wesley Sneijder is the best around at the moment and he will be a worthy winner of this year's Ballon d'Or.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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