The Forgotten Ones

By: Alfonso Duro

The storm has now passed and Cristiano Ronaldo has lifted the Ballon d’Or for a second year in a row, but was he battling against the right opponents? In the last few years, the controversy about FIFA’s nontransparent system to decide who the top players of the year are has come under fire, and this time around—perhaps—we have seen some of the most flagrant omissions on both the top 23 list and, obviously, the last three finalists.

We wanted to pay respect to the forgotten ones, those players who could have made it to the final round and, who knows, maybe all the way to the top. There’s always next year, they say, but in 2014, these players deserved a bit more recognition:

Angel Di María: If Messi made it to the last three solely because of his performance in Brazil 2014, Di María should have won the whole thing, don’t you think? El Fideo made a crucial impact in Real Madrid’s second half of the last season, soon after he “rearranged” his life, and his extra focus proved essential for the Whites to lift La Décima. He then traveled to the World Cup to help Argentina reach the final, scoring a key goal in overtime against Switzerland, and dishing out two assists, for Messi (against Iran) and Higuaín (against Belgium), before suffering a muscle tear that would keep him from the semis and the final. There’s no saying what would have happened if Di María had suited up for Argentina against Germany, but by the looks of how much the coaching staff tried to get him back in time, you’d think he was very important for the team. Important enough to have made it to the finalists list of the Ballon d’Or.

Thomas Müller: The German forward was one of the most vociferous proponents of his compatriot Manuel Neuer winning the FIFA Player of the Year award, so much so that you’d say he had some personal beef against Cristiano Ronaldo... But the truth probably lies somewhere closer to the fact that, after a wonderful year, Müller was passed up as one of the best. In his mind, Tommy must have thought that his five goals in the World Cup should have been worth more than all of Ronaldo’s throughout the season, or that he actually winning the World Cup was better than losing the final, like Messi did. Crazy, right? If there’s someone who has shone from notoriety this year and has a right to complain, that would be Thomas Müller. No doubt.

Javier Mascherano: If Neuer made the shortlist to promote the value of defensive work in today’s soccer, Argentine Javier Mascherano would have been a much better poster child. The defensive midfielder went to unimaginably painful depths to help Argentina reach their dreamed final, and his performances were admired by everyone. It’s no easy fit being compared to the strongest man in the world (Chuck Norris, of course), and as Mascherano managed to do the same as Lionel Messi in 2014, with the added bonus of becoming the defensive personality of the year, the situation begs the question: why did Messi get all the praise and Mascherano got none?

Guess we’ll never really know.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.