Two weeks ago, FIFA announced the 23 nominees for the 2014 Ballon d’Or (given to the best soccer player in the world as judged by the coaches and captains of national teams). We took the time to brief you on the chances for each nominee, providing both a 2014 resume and odds for each player.
Now, FIFA has shortened its list to just three and, wouldn’t you know it, the remaining contenders are the three players with the best original odds:
- Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid/Portugal
- Lionel Messi – Barcelona/Argentina
- Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich/Germany
Of course, with a refined list come refined odds.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 1/6
Ronaldo remains the favorite, but he has dropped slightly from 1/8 (or -800) to 1/6 (or -600).
There is good reason for Ronaldo’s residence at the top of the list: he has been the best player for the best club team in the world all year, leading Real Madrid to a 2013-14 Champions League title and a perfect record to start the 2014-15 campaign. While Portugal failed to move past the group stage at the World Cup, an injured Ronaldo clearly gave it his all and managed to pull off some dazzling maneuvers. (Remember the dying minutes against the US?)
Manuel Neuer – 11/2
Support for Neuer has been building and his odds have responded accordingly; originally a 12/1 (or +1200) longshot, the keeper is now second in the odds at 11/2 (or +550).
Former Spanish star Gaizka Mendieta recently stated that he thought Neuer was the most deserving candidate. With either Ronaldo or Messi taking the trophy each year since 2008, don’t be surprised if they suffer from some voter apathy and Neuer reaps the benefits. We’re not suggesting that pity would be at the heart of a Neuer victory, though. He has undoubtedly been the best goalkeeper in the world in 2014: he backstopped Germany to the World Cup title – winning best goalkeeper in the process – and has been a rock for Bayern Munich all year. We simply don’t think that keepers – even the best keepers – impact the game the same way as the likes of Ronaldo and Messi.
Lionel Messi – 8/1
Like Ronaldo, Messi has also dropped slightly in the odds, falling from 7/1 (or +700) to 8/1 (or +800).
His drop is more a product of Neuer’s sudden charge than Messi’s own resume. The Little Wizard was named the best player at this year’s World Cup and was captivating in almost every game. If he had been able to generate any offense in the final against Germany, this trophy would be his to lose.Unfortunately, Messi and Argentina were flat for most of the game, and now Messi has no major trophies on his resume this year. That said, he remains the best goal scorer in the world and, in our view, the best player of his generation. It’s only Messi’s past accomplishments that take the sheen off of his 2014 bona fides.
(Photo credit: Jaime de la Fuente (originally posted to Flickr as figo) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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