December 2nd, 2009
10:47 AM ET

What's the point of player awards?

Lionel Messi’s anointment as European footballer of the year will have come as no surprise to anyone. He’s been touted throughout the last year as the chosen one. And, as the award is voted on by the very journalists who supply all the hyperbole, there was every chance he’d be crowned.

Is Wayne Rooney more deserving of the Ballon d'Or than Lionel Messi?
Is Wayne Rooney more deserving of the Ballon d'Or than Lionel Messi?

He’s also a hot favorite for the FIFA World Player of the year title due to be awarded later this month. And, after a year in which he helped Barcelona win the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and European Champions League, there’s no doubt that he’s as good a choice as any for the big prize.

However, my question is - what is the point of these awards? The last time I looked, football is a team game in which the effectiveness of one player is wholly dependent on the contribution of others. Only once in history has a player ever come close to consistently winning games on his own, and that was Diego Maradona, who won the World Cup for Argentina and the Scudetto for Napoli ,with his team-mates playing bit parts. But as special a talent as Messi is, he shares nothing but his nationality with Diego, whose skills were from a different planet.

Messi needed others to hit the heights, as born out by the fact that his Barcelona team-mates from last season,  Xavi, Iniesta, and Eto'o also finished in the top five of the Ballon d'Or poll. Sure, he’s a good player, maybe even a great one, especially when it comes to his attacking prowess. But, if you’re talking about the "World Footballer of the Year" shouldn’t the recipient of the title be more of an all-rounder? 

For example, England's Wayne Rooney helped United make the Champions League final and win their third English Premier League crown in a row with a three-pronged effort in which he scored goals, made goals, and prevented goals with some of the most tenacious and disciplined football ever seen in the game. What's more, should Alex Ferguson ever need an emergency goalkeeper, I've heard that Wazza, as he’s known, is also pretty handy between the sticks.

Is Messi as well rounded? No. And neither was Cristiano Ronaldo before him, Kaka, or many others before that. But this is not intended as a case for Rooney and against Messi, but against the whole notion of an individual award in a team sport. An All-Star team, naming the best player in each position – perfectly valid, as you’re comparing like with like. But a World or European footballer of the year per se? It makes no real sense. After all, what is it they say? There is no "I" in team.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. leonard

    I agree with you.

    December 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  2. ralph

    I do not agree. I have not heard you say this about American sports. What about baseball, hockey, basketball and football? They all have their MVP's. Is Michael Jordan as great as they say then? or Wayne Gretski? In cricket the awards are split according to our function in football you cannot do that as the crossing of functions is too difficult to define...Messi deserves it.

    December 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  3. pramok

    awards and function in games or in any fields is a recognition .....from a society in a field or games that bestows the person who excels in it... simple as that, without it is something like a food without a salt !

    December 3, 2009 at 12:34 am | Reply
  4. Buco

    I don't agree with you.

    December 3, 2009 at 12:40 am | Reply
  5. ub

    Give me a break. So why do you have MVPs in basketball, football and other team sports? Can Kobe win a match on his own? Tom Brady? Oh, and all of them are on the winning team, right?

    The whole point of your comment seems to be that you don't agree on Messi as a better player than Wazza.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:37 am | Reply
  6. Diane

    There is no better way of creating unrest in a team all of whose members have played their guts out, than by singling out 1 player as the top dog. Go back to school, guys, you might learn something. It's like rewarding a child for continually sitting up the straightest when the whole class has tried their very best. Footballers are just twiddling a ball around with their feet after all, not saving a life. It is just a way of inflating their already inflated ego. Player of the Year is a lot of nonsense. It's a TEAM GAME and they are payed highly for doing it.

    December 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  7. Gurufootball

    Pedro Pinto with a Portuguese name, from England, for a sports writer obviously with some talent or else you would not be so prolific I don’t get you. Aside from sports already mentioned in other comments, we acknowledge actors, writers, or contributors to world peace. You may not always agree with the chosen one but it does not mean that you try to get attention from your readers by singling out Wayne Rooney. Well rounded player and goal tender talent he may be but last year he also had lots of help from an unknown player named Cristiano Ronaldo fellow Portuguese. Why don’t you just say what you mean? I think Marodona was one of the greatest players there ever was, in my opinion better than Pele, but I don’t know anyone more influential in a team in these modern football times than Cristiano Ronaldo. Because I’m also a fellow Portuguese I think he deserved a repeat, but that’s just my biased opinion which will be confirmed when Manchester comes in 2nd this year in the premier league and will get knocked out of UEFA in the next round. I understand you English are still hurting about the move. Real Madrid may not get any silver this year due to injuries etc. but they will be there competing to the end, unlike past seasons. With articles like these I’m going to start to think you came from the same planet as this addicted Maradona.

    Diane man hater because they show more interest in football than you, what are you talking about? Accusing us guys of being little boys? That’s what we are, and what we want and sadly why you are probably all alone. At least that’s my interpretation of your comment.

    December 6, 2009 at 4:01 am | Reply
  8. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    What is best for enhancing the beauty of the Jogo Bonito is a question that could be asked by football governing bodies to the participating teams. An answer from the playing squads will reveal their minds. I know a lot of football managers who emphasize team work. As a result we often see wing backs, defenders and midfielders regularly featuring on the score sheet. Very thought provoking stuff Terry.

    December 6, 2009 at 7:45 am | Reply
  9. Louis

    Terry i agree with you. Notwithstanding, we must recognize that the team is made up of individuals (companies do the same through employee awards). My suggestion, design an award for teams as well to recognize their contribution.

    December 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  10. Louis

    Terry i agree with you. Notwithstanding, we must recognize that the team is made up of individuals (companies do the same through employee awards). My suggestion, design an award for teams as well to recognize their contribution.

    December 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  11. Gurufootball

    My apologies for blaming Pedro Pinto for this article, I thought I was reading his blog. Nevertheless my opinion is firm Terry.

    Louis the team award already exists. It’s called UEFA & EUROPA Champions. By the way although I do favor CR9 I’m OK Messi got it. After all Barcelona took it all last season.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  12. Louis

    Gurufootball, I appreciate that. My thinking is more in the direction of choosing the team of the year along the lines of the choosing Messi et al.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  13. Alehandro

    Guru, what are you talking about? Did you READ the article? It said "this is not intended as a case for Rooney and against Messi, but against the whole notion of an individual award in a team sport."... Rooney was merely an example of a more well rounded player than Messi. And I have to agree with Terry, it makes no sense to reward an individual for a team effort. And another thing, you just used this response as a way to boost up your beloved Cristiano Ronaldo and lord it over United fans when it had nothing to do with him other than him being a former World Footballer of the year. Don't be so transparent and READ before you write.

    December 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Reply

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