The third edition of The Best FIFA awards takes place on Monday, September 24, 2018, at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
After an initial shortlist of ten players, FIFA shortened the list down to three nominees viz; current holder Cristiano Ronaldo who enjoyed another stellar campaign with Real Madrid whom he led to a third consecutive Champions League title, Mo Salah had his excellent debut campaign with Liverpool where he broke a plethora of records including for most goals scored in a 38 game Premier League season rewarded with a nomination, as well as Luka Modric who helped Real win the UCL, as well as put in a Golden Ball winning performance to lead his country to her first ever World Cup final appearance.
Cristiano Ronaldo in addition to being the current holder holds the distinction of being the only man to have won the award, having won each of the two awards since it was inaugurated in 2016.
The Portuguese’ exploits last season and abundance of fans worldwide has seen him installed as the favourite for the award in the opinion of many people, however, just like the UEFA awards held in August, Ronaldo could be set for disappointment in his quest to win yet another personal accolade. Here are three reasons why Ronaldo should not be named the FIFA Best Men’s Player.
#3 His World Cup campaign was less than stellar
Ronaldo kicked off his 2018 World Cup journey in the most spectacular way possible, scoring a hat-trick against 2010 champions Spain in a 3-3 draw, and breaking multiple records in the process, including becoming European football’s all-time highest international goalscorer, and second only to Ali Daei.
He followed that up with a header in the 4th minute against Morocco, which proved to be the winning strike and moved his country to the top of the tables level with Spain on 4 points. However, from there on, he largely failed to impress.
Ronaldo was unspectacular in the final game of the group against Iran and missed a crucial penalty which might have been more consequential had Iran been more clinical in front of goal.
He put in another anonymous performance against Uruguay in the round of 16 as La Celeste progressed courtesy of Edinson Cavani’s brace in a 2-1 victory.
Traditionally, World Cup performance has been used to decide FIFA awards in a World Cup year, a practice which was highly clamoured for following its non-usage for the 2010 and 2014 awards due to being merged with the Ballon d’Or.
With the re-introduction of a separate FIFA award in 2016, it is only right that a FIFA individual accolade should go to the best performing player at the 2018 World Cup, and no matter how unpopular the decision may be, that player should not be Ronaldo.
#2 He went missing for Real Madrid in the crucial stages
Cristiano Ronaldo has made a name for himself as the man for the big occasion throughout his career, rising from having a reputation of being a flat-track bully during his time in England with Manchester United to being arguably the biggest big game player in history.
Ronaldo has been an extraordinary athlete over the last decade, but he seemed to take it up a notch when it came to the grandest stages.
In 2013, when his country lay on the brink of missing out on the 2014 World Cup, up stepped Ronaldo with an emphatic 4 goal performance which played a crucial role in swinging the pendulum for the 2013 Ballon d’Or in his favour. Countless examples also abound with Real Madrid, and his 60 UCL knockout round goals are the record highest in the history of the competition.
Last season, Real Madrid won the Champions League for the third consecutive season, and it is hardly arguable that without his 15 goals, it wouldn’t have been possible. He scored three goals in the first leg against his current employers at the quarter-final last season and showed great nerve to convert a stoppage-time penalty after the Bianconerri had erased Madrid’s advantage.
However, in the semi-finals against Bayern, Ronaldo struggled to impact the game, with Benzema the one to put the Bavarians to the sword.
The story was not too dissimilar in the final against Liverpool, where Bale was the star of the show, as his brace was including a stunning overhead kick was enough to see of The Reds, and this led to Ronaldo attempting to steal the spotlight by making cryptic remarks over his future which led to a reprimand by Sergio Ramos.
The best awards should always go to the players who made an impact in the biggest matches, and despite his previous achievements, Ronaldo struggled to do that last season.
#1 He did not have a great domestic campaign
Ronaldo began his La Liga campaign last year with a five-match suspension for shoving the referee in the first leg of Real Madrid’s Spanish Super Cup triumph over Barcelona.
After returning from the ban, Ronaldo failed to score in his first three league matches, before breaking his duck for the season against Getafe in October 2017. It was the longest he had taken to open his league account since he arrived at Real Madrid.
From then on, he largely struggled to find the back of the net in the league, even though he was still as prolific as ever in the Champions League (becoming the first player in history to score in all six group stage matches).
Real Madrid suffered domestically as a result, and found themselves far behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on the standings.
Even though Ronaldo had a significant upturn in fortune at the start of the year which was his best start to a calendar year in his illustrious career, the damage had already been done, as Real Madrid could only finish a dismal 3rd in the league.
Ronaldo had an exceptional campaign in Europe, but in the league, it was a different story, and his underperformance in the league is one which should see him miss out on the FIFA award.