Messi’s unconscionable seventh Ballon d’Or
If Italy and Chelsea’s Jorginho does not get the FIFA Best 2021 trophy for the best football player on the planet for the current year, the only truly deserving candidate (short of N’Golo Kante) it will be impossible to take any such awards seriously hereafter. That the Italian midfielder—UEFA Champions League 2021 winner with Chelsea, Euro 2020 (2021) winner with Italy, UEFA Men’s Payer of the Year 2021, FA Cup finalist, and EPL fourth place with Chelsea—did not win the award this year is incredible. Certainly, the Ballon d’Or has lost all legitimacy in its current incarnation.
What exactly did Messi do in 2021 that outshone Jorginho and Kante to win the 2021 Ballon d’Or? Frankly, Messi had a good part-time season at Barcelona and had a good Copa America, winning his first international trophy. No Champions League trophy, no La Liga trophy, no Copa del Rey trophy, and a South America coronation that seemed preordained the moment the tournament was announced—you know, right after playing the 2015 and 2016 editions in Chile and the USA, in both of which Messi and Argentina lost to Chile in the finals, and the 2019 edition where Brazil eliminated Argentina in the semifinals to go on and win the trophy at home, without Neymar on the host’s roster but with Messi on the pitch for that fateful semi.
So how did the French magazine’s cadre of international journalists, who voted for Paris St. Germaine’s Lionel Messi to win, reach the conclusion that a player whose year was good but whose teams did poorly in all of this year’s competitions, save one, was the best player in the world in 2021? Isn’t it interesting that the magazine itself did not immediately and widely publish the voting results and instead it took a fuzzy, Tweeted copy of the vote’s program—the one available copy of the voting record all others used as their go-to source—to actually get the information out in the open?
We have been down this road before. The issue is not who is the best player on the planet, but who had the best performance the year of the trophy. That was Jorginho, or in his stead, Kante, but certainly not Messi.
UEFA Word Cup 2022 Qualifiers boondoggle
Whoever came up with the playoff concept for the UEFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers this time around should be…fired. In what world does it make sense that at the end of all of the European qualifiers we end up with Scotland, Ukraine, Wales, and Austria determining the first playoff qualifier, then Russia, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic determining the second, and THEN, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and North Macedonia, determining the third?
The Italians, Portuguese, Turks, and Swedes, are arguably the toughest four teams and three of the four are going to compete for one slot? How about the seeding that allowed Germany, France, and Portugal to inhabit the same preliminary group at the Euro, was it the same guy coming up with that draw? Let’s hope that issue is laid to rest pronto.
Portuguese National Team’s Achilles heel—Fernando Santos
Please take a look at how Germany scored against Portugal (2-4) in the 2020 Euro and then look at how Serbia defeated Portugal (2-1) in Lisbon in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers this year. When you compare the goals, do you see the resemblance in how Portugal’s opposition scored them? How about if their opposition took the ball down the right side of the Portuguese defense and then crossed it to the far-left side of the Portuguese box? Would they find a free teammate to head, kick, blow, or spit the ball into the empty net?
How many times does Portugal’s coach, Fernando Santos, have to see the disastrous results of not being prepared to counter such a basic play? It cost him and his team by earning a first-round playoff against Belgium who summarily eliminated Portugal from the Euros and now it has cost his team a potential clash with Italy to see which of them—the Euro 2016 winners or the Euro 2020 winners—will make the 2022 World Cup. Imagine missing out on Chelsea’s Jorginho, Juventus’ Chiesa, and PSG’s Donnarumma or Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes, and Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix in Qatar. If Italy, the favored team, wins, the Portuguese team, the Portuguese Football Federation, and anyone with two eyes will have no one but the coach to blame—he is the one who is supposed to have noticed the repeated deficiency and rectified it.
The Biennial World Cup—an idea whose time should quickly pass
Now comes FIFA, not to be confused with the European Club Association (ECA), or that group of top European SuperClubs, all similarities in efforts aside. No, we are not talking about a power grab of the Super League type, or of the UEFA over FIFA type that the European Confederation President, Aleksander Ceferin, routinely attempts every time he confronts either ECA or FIFA, we are talking about the FIFA Uber Alles type.
This is FIFA President Gianni Infantino trying to out-Blatter good old Sepp. We are talking about his proposal for a World Cup every two years—just what all the stakeholders who opposed the expansion of the Confederations Cup and the added games of the Super League felt was needed. The concept is that the quadrennial football event—you know modeled after that other one, the one started in Greece, and which has lasted about 1,250 years—is outdated and out of synch with the accelerated need for entertainment that our youth now demands.
So, let’s do a World Cup every—arbitrarily and without consulting other nations, clubs, confederations, or any bothersome stakeholders—two years. Read, FIFA’s income is by and large generated by the quadrennial event so a biennial one means twice the dough over the same time period. Duh! Never mind that for players and coaches and other such a domestic league and cup, a continental club championship, a continental national championship, and a second continental Nations League championship are more than enough. For FIFA they are simply not enough to go around, no matter if all confederations host them. Right? We need more!
Need I say more.
ASIDE: I am very grateful for and humbled by the many kind words so many of you have shared over the past few months and apologize for taking so long to respond. Losing my father on September 16, 2020, and then my mother on July 9, 2021, was a double blow that has had a cumulative effect on me which I have felt in increasing ways. Today, with plans to bury them both at their plot in the Caribbean after the holidays, I am reaching some closure and with it, I will begin writing in earnest again. Rest in peace mijos.
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