It’s a striker’s game

Faced with the challenge of stopping world class attacking talents like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Suarez, Bale and others, the defenders of today, more often than not, fail to come up with a solution to stop them. Their apparent inferiority against such attacking talent is all too evident, thereby ruling out any chance of them winning the Ballon d’Or title.

The German and Bayern Munich goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, has been the most influential defensive player over the past few years.   -  REUTERS

The recently announced 30-man shortlist for France Football’s Ballon d’Or had very little or no surprises at all. The usual suspects — Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez — had their names penned in and now a select media will cast their vote to decide on the final pick.

 

I, though, don’t have a vote. But, given a chance, I would have walked away from the eight-year-long tradition — of either picking Messi or Ronaldo — and cast my ballot for Uruguay and Barcelona’s Suarez. The tenacious striker has added new stealth to the Catalan side’s game, making the team better, something which was considered virtually impossible because of the abundance of pedigreed talent in Luis Enrique’s squad.

Bale and Neymar may also provide a close fight and the two, with age on their side, will surely lay their hands on the coveted prize in the years to come.

Messi and Roanldo are special players, the once in a lifetime kind of footballers, who can single-handedly win games when needed — the Argentine proving it once again during a spectacular second half display against Sevilla in the La Liga recently. Without a doubt, the duo has been the most dominating players in the world over the past many years.

The others in the fray like Leicester City’s inspirational Algerian playmaker, Riyad Mahrez, will find to difficult to lodge them off their pedestal despite abundant talent. Mahrez, an extremely talented player, scored important goals for Leicester when needed and was instrumental in the Foxes’ surprising Premier League title run in 2015-16.

 

Mahrez’s Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy, too, has made it to the list — the first Englishman to find a place there since Wayne Rooney in 2012. It will be fantastic to see the goal-poacher win the award or even find a place in the final shortlist, but it is highly unlikely. The lack of English success — both for club and country — at the continental and international level over the past few years, put Englishmen at a position of disadvantage when a selection for such awards are made.

The Premier League, often considered the most gruelling club competition in the world, has been well represented with Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) Dimitri Payet, Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) making it to the list. Real Madrid, the current European champion, rightly finds six of its player in the list.

Keeping up with tradition, only three defenders — Diego Godín (Atletico Madrid), Pepe (Real Madrid) and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) — have made it to the 30-man initial list. Italian Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the title after guiding his team to World Cup glory in 2006. Faced with the challenge of stopping world class attacking talents like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Suarez, Bale and others, the defenders of today, more often than not, fail to come up with a solution to stop them. Their apparent inferiority against such attacking talent is all too evident, thereby ruling out any chance of them winning the title.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who continued to be terrific for Germany and Bayern Munich, defining the role of a modern sweeper-keeper, has been the most influential defensive player over the past few years. But, unfortunately, the strikers always get all the glory.