Danny Hall Column: Ronaldo, Messi and the great Ballon Bore debate

It doesn't take the absence of any English players from the team of the year to render Fifa's Ballon d'Or irrelevant, or relatively insignificant to most.

Wednesday, 13th January 2016, 1:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th January 2016, 2:04 pm
Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the nominees for the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2015 award, attend a press conference prior to the ceremony in Switzerland

It is billed as one of the biggest events in the global football calendar, after all, despite the lack of any actual football being played. Then Fifa play their trump card and put James Nesbitt, of Cold Feet fame, in charge.

The swindlers in Switzerland probably thought we deserved something of a surprise, on a night of otherwise-certainties.

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battling it out for the top award was as sure as night follows day, with Barcelona’s Neymar completing an utterly pointless three-man shortlist.

If Luis Suarez didn’t get a look in, what hope for the leading lights of our Premier League? Sergio Aguero made the FIFPro World XI... the third team, that is.

Eden Hazard and Yaya Toure made the second team, one assumes on the strength of their early 2015 form rather than late.

And Arsenal’s ‘assist king’ Mesut Özil didn’t even make the 55-man shortlist, voted for by around 25,000 professional footballers worldwide.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, is congratulated by Brazil's Neymar, left, after winning the Ballon d'Or

Hazard led the way in the Premier League with 59 points for the top award; Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez registered 53 and Toure and Aguero polled 40 and 39 each. Messi received 1,666.

The Premier League, which foolishly once tried to bill itself as the best league in the world, has surrendered that honour to La Liga and must now settle for the most competitive.

What else can explain the upward flow of talent to Spain - Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, even Xabi Alonso and, inevitably, David De Gea and possibly Hazard - and Real Madrid’s four-man representation in the team of the year, despite winning precisely nothing in 2015?

That ship has sailed, and not even a dramatic Premier League rebrand - dropping the title sponsor and creating a new logo - will halt it.

Argentina's Lionel Messi poses with the Ballon d'Or trophy

But there is hope for the Ballon D’or yet - and we don’t have to wait five or ten years for Messi and Ronaldo to retire to get there. Run it without them!

There’d be more variety, for a start. So Neymar is the 2015 winner; Manuel Neuer won it in 2014, Franck Ribéry in 2013. The honour for 2013 goes to Andrés Iniesta, with other winners including Xavi, Fernando Torres and Kaka.

It’s been ten years since a Ronaldo-and-Messi-free top three now and we’ll probably, in all likelihood, have a few more years of their dominance just yet.

And we should be grateful for it. Instead of comparing the two, appreciate them while they’re still around, for the global game will be far poorer when they’re gone.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, is congratulated by Brazil's Neymar, left, after winning the Ballon d'Or

The pair could be argued as the greatest footballers of all time, never mind of their generation. They drive each other on to greatness; they drive their teams on, too.

And despite neither man voting for the other in their top three, there is a great mutual respect for each other’s talent, too.

(Don’t pay too much attention to the voting, either; not everyone uses tactics. Florentin Pogba, the captain of Guinea, voted Messi, Ronaldo and Manuel Neuer as his top three; ignoring his brother, Paul).

The Ballon d’Or is one of those curious modern day phenoms in football; things that don’t really matter, yet somehow assume ridiculous significance for no apparent reason at all. Players may or may not shake hands before games. Managers may or may not do likewise afterwards.

Messi may be the better player, Ronaldo may be the better athlete.

So many questions, very few concrete answers.

Argentina's Lionel Messi poses with the Ballon d'Or trophy

One thing’s for sure, though; the world keeps turning, they’ll keep scoring and we’ll keep watching.

If only someone could challenge the status quo, football would be all the richer for it.