Awkward choices for player of the year

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The Independent Online

The awards season is upon us again, with Lionel Messi expected to follow his Ballon d'Or success with the Fifa World Player of the Year after being named in the five-man shortlist this week.

A personal opinion is that Xavi is more deserving. Messi has been superb for Barcelona, but failed to rise above the malaise that has afflicted Argentina under Diego Maradona's stewardship. Xavi is not only the player who makes Barcelona tick, thus creating the platform for Messi, but has also been superb for Spain.

That is just my personal opinion. So, of course, are most awards. The Ballon d'Or is voted for by journalists, World Soccer's by readers (ie fans), the Fifa award by the coaches and captains of every team in the world. The professional involvement might suggest the latter is most credible, but in the past there have been some very odd choices by voters from some of the more far-flung nations.

In years without a major tournament, like this one, awards tend to be voted for on the evidence of highlights clips. So they favour goalscorers, flair players and celebrity. Kaka is on the shortlist for the Fifa award. He has had a good year with Brazil, but an ordinary one at club level, at both Milan and Real Madrid.

Maybe there should be an objective, stats-and-acts-based rating. There is, the Castrol Rankings, and they prove football is not a game that can be boiled down to figures. Thierry Henry is top. Even before his handball, that was ridiculous – he often fails to start at club level. Luca Toni, out of favour at Bayern, is 10th but Didier Drogba 23rd. And Xavi? Fortieth, behind Florent Malouda and several other unlikely names.

So perhaps a subjective vote is better. I may argue Xavi is ahead of Messi, but the Argentine is definitely a more valid choice than Henry.

g.moore@independent.co.uk

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