Lionel Messi will win the 2015 Ballon d’Or. There’s no question about that.
As Messi is frequently called an alien, a freak, or not human by his fellow footballers, the real question is whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar will come in second place in the Ballon d’Or voting.
Both Ronaldo and Neymar have strong cases to come in second place, but second place will mean nothing to Ronaldo but something of a milestone for Neymar who has his sights on surpassing Messi.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar by the numbers:
Lionel Messi- 44 goals, 21 assists, 4 titles
Neymar- 41 goals, 12 assists, 4 titles
Cristiano Ronaldo- 45 goals, 14 assists, 0 titles
•The Case for Cristiano Ronaldo for Second Place•
The Portuguese forward has 45 goals compared to Neymar’s 41 goals – a slight advantage. In a year where Barcelona was universally considered better than Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s goals stats equaled Messi’s. The fact that Ronaldo’s numbers equaled Messi’s and surpassed Neymar’s is perhaps a more objective and fair standard to use to compare Ronaldo to Neymar. The Brazilian might be the more complete player, but Ronaldo shouldn’t be penalized for Messi’s and Suárez’s goals cutting into Neymar’s. The fact that Ronaldo’s numbers were close to Messi’s is a strong criteria to declare him above Neymar.
•The Case for Neymar for Second Place•
The Case for Neymar is less about stats and more about how well he played with Messi, Luís Suárez, Andrés Iniesta, and so on. Many elite players would get frustrated playing in Messi’s shadow and thus work less and produce less goals and assists, but Neymar bonded and thrived with Messi. The argument can be made that scoring 41 goals and producing 12 assists is harder to do when the focal point of the team is on another player. Neymar’s combination of playmaking and goalscoring make him a more complete player than Ronaldo, and the Brazilian was more active without the ball than Ronaldo. Neymar’s international play was far more dazzling than Ronaldo’s, so this is just another aspect of Neymar’s game that is more complete than Ronaldo’s.
Neymar deserves the Silver Ball (the runner-up to the Ballon d’Or award). Soccer isn’t just about numbers, and the way that Neymar was world-class as a teammate, as an individual achiever, and as a club and international player give him the edge over Ronaldo. The Brazilian was simply electrifying and magical. The way that Neymar played was superior to Ronaldo, and Neymar was the more successful champion.
What will happen in next year’s Ballon d’Or voting when Neymar is even better?