Can Anyone Stop Messi From Reclaiming The Ballon D’or?

The 2012 FIFA Ballon D’or will be awarded early next year, and of the 20 candidates up for this year’s prize, one name stands out. Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi is the outstanding candidate for the coveted prize and with good reason. Throughout 2012, he has scored a massive 82 goals in all competitions, just six away from breaking the record set by legendary Germany striker Gerd Muller. Messi is the overwhelming favourite to win the prize, but who are his rivals, and can they stop him?

One of the other two major candidates for the Ballon D’or is Barca teammate Andres Iniesta. The inventive attacking midfielder has helped Messi immensely throughout his career, supplying him with endless assists against many of their opponents, but one thing Iniesta has in his favour is international success. While Messi hasn’t quite delivered with Argentina, Iniesta has enjoyed unparalleled success with Spain, playing a key role in winning and retaining the European Championships and, most impressively of all, the World Cup.

The third candidate to make it through the 20-man shortlist is Messi’s greatest rival to date, Real Madrid’s polarising Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a record that stands up against that of Messi, and unlike the diminutive Argentine, has a La Liga winners’ medal to show for his efforts in the past year. However, what may count against him is that Real’s title defence has stuttered, and that he has underperformed since September. This may count against him when the award is given out.

The odds with Ladbrokes Sport of Messi picking up the trophy for the fourth time in succession are pretty short, but it’s hard not to bet against him, even if he hasn’t won as much as Iniesta or Ronaldo in the past 12 months. Should the award go to one of the other two, it would be a huge shock.

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FC Barcelona and Real Madrid gearing up for the inevitable

Given today’s lack of news, I thought I’d pass along an article on La Liga, the Spanish soccer league. As the season reaches its midway point, the clear favorites are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. That’s expected, of course, considering their sizable payrolls and glamorous rosters.

Per the Los Angeles Times:

As far as gambles go, it was Florentino Perez who rolled the dice the hardest.

What the 62-year-old Spanish businessman did last summer was to splash out more than $355 million to bring the likes of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo ($132 million), Brazil’s Kaka ($90 million), Spain’s Xabi Alonso ($48 million) and France’s Karim Benzema ($48 million) to Real Madrid.

What he wanted to do, he said, was “to create a spectacular project . . . to make Real Madrid the best club in the world once more.”

Halfway through the 2009-10 season, his “project” still has a long way to go. Like many top European teams that last summer gambled that a few expensive new players or a high-profile new coach would change their fortunes, Real has not seen things quite work out its way. Not yet, anyway.

So, with due deference to King Juan Carlos and family, the reign in Spain that is most closely watched as the new year approaches is that of FC Barcelona.

What follows is a glimpse at the two Spanish powers at the season’s midpoint. Fans of Sevilla, Valencia, Deportivo La Coruna, Mallorca and all other pretenders to the title need look no further.

In Spain, there are only two teams.

Sounds more enticing than anything offered by the MLS, doesn’t it? Both teams have plenty at stake this season and I’m excited to see how everything unravels.

Photo from fOTOGLIF’s Top 49 Most Influential Men

BoltToday, released their list of the world’s Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2008. Over 200,000 voters participated to help determine which men in the public eye most influenced the way they bought, dressed, and thought in the past year. Athletes made up 25 percent of the list, the most of any other category (music, politics, fashion, etc.). Their respective rankings are below:

46. Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees

45. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins

41. Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1 Racing

40. Brett Favre – New York Jets

30. Rafael Nadal – Association of Tennis Professionals

25. David Beckham – Los Angeles Galaxy

21. Usain Bolt – 2008 Olympics gold-medal sprinter

20. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

18. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers

9. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

3. Michael Phelps – 2008 Olympics gold-medal swimmer

While I’m not sure how much Michael Phelps affected how males bought, dressed, and thought over the past few months, these athletes have certainly garnered interest for what they represent, their sport. Although the criteria might have to be worded differently next time around (at #48, David Simon, creator of The Wire, definitely affected how our culture thinks), I agree that these individuals have helped sports in general more than their peers. For example, Lewis Hamilton broke Formula 1’s color barrier, Rafael Nadal has reinvigorated tennis, and both Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps momentarily united the world in celebration with their success in the Olympics.

It’s pretty interesting to see how much sway Kobe and Favre still have while sports such as golf, UFC, and boxing lacked a representative on the list.

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