Cristiano Ronaldo is the reigning European and World Footballer of the year based on his exploits for Man United in the 07/08 season. For a winger to score 42 goals in a season were nothing short of spectacular and he was truly a deserving winner.
But the real question is: Is there really such a thing as the best footballer?
It is not a problem in individual sports where the degree of your greatness is tied to the number of trophies you won. Win more titles than everybody else, and you are the best.
But when it comes to team sports like football where it requires the collective effort of a group of individuals, all playing different roles, the line is not that clear.
Look, we all know that an wonderful player in a mediocre team might fail to win league titles, or score enough goals through no fault of his, but a lesser player (not too much lesser) could benefit from having an excellent midfield or defence to protect his rear while leaving him free to grab the glories up front.
To add to the injustice, defensive or unspectacular players, more often than not, are overlooked in the selection process.
Let’s face it, whenever we think of a great footballer, we instinctively conjure up images of players like Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo or Messi… players who are flamboyant in their play, players who can dribble their way through a maze of defenders, players who excite us with their spectacular skills.
Seldom would we ever associate “best” with defenders or defensive midfielders. (Goalkeepers, on the other hand, are a different breed due to their unique role in a football game… they are easier to spot)
Of course, defenders like Fabio Cannavaro do get voted, but they are the exceptions rather than the norm. And if they ever get voted, it usually reflects the defensive philosophy of the football team or an inadequacy in their strikeforce (which is not a good thing ).
It would be better to simply abolish a single Footballer of the Year award, and instead, install awards for all different positions.
In that way, we can make sure nobody goes unrecognised just because of the position he played. While not everybody can dribble like Maradona or bend it like Beckham, not everybody can tackle and win balls like a Roy Keane too.
As the VP of my sec school like to say: “No man is an island”… including footballers.