Yes, it’s that time of year when the UEFA European Footballer of the Year award is handed out. On Thursday, either Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Andres Iniesta will be crowned as the best player on the continent over the last season. The voting will be done live at the Grimaldi Center in Monaco by journalists representing UEFA’s 53 member states and yours truly will be on stage presenting the awards ceremony.
It will be the seventh time that I will have the privilege to host UEFA’s annual awards gala and Champions League draw in Monaco. Over the last few years I have seen a lot of drama on stage and I predict a few more "oohs" and "ahs" on Thursday evening when the groups are drawn for the tournament's lucrative first stage and when the winner of the top prize is announced.
It would be fair to say that Messi is the favorite to win the award, which has replaced the old Ballon D’Or, but I think, this time around it will be Ronaldo coming out on top. In my mind, this accolade is like the Most Valuable Player award in the NBA, for example, and he was the MVP at Real Madrid - the Spanish champions - last season.
Okay, I know what you are thinking – Messi’s goal total for Barcelona last season, a record 73 in 60 matches, was simply unbelievable. I agree. I also believe the three-time world player of the year is still the best and most exciting footballer on the planet.
However, this award should go to the player who excels individually while helping his team win important trophies, and Ronaldo won the Spanish league in 2012 while the Argentine star only picked up the Copa del Rey.
Before talking about CR7, let me address Iniesta’s chances of winning the award. I don’t think they’re great. If he had scored the winning goal in the Euro 2012 final, like he did at the 2010 World Cup then he would probably be the favorite.
However, even though he was instrumental in Spain’s European Championship victory, the Barcelona midfielder did not have the kind of impact, individually, that either Messi or Ronaldo did on their respective teams.
So finally to Cristiano. I know for a fact, because I have talked to him about it various times, that the Portugal international believes he deserves to be rewarded for his exploits last season. He scored 60 goals in 55 games for Real Madrid and also led Portugal to the semifinals of Euro 2012. He scored goals of all shapes and sizes and was a leader on and off the pitch for club and country.
Furthermore, while Messi had the whole Barcelona team playing for him, Ronaldo shared the ball and the goals with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain. Last season at Barcelona, no other player scored more than 15 goals, while at Real both Benzema and Higuain netted more than 25.
So there you have it. Those are my thoughts regarding who should be voted the best player in Europe for the last year. It will be close and there is no doubt that whoever wins deserves it, but this year, Ronaldo should take home the top prize. What do you think? Have your say in the comments box below.