Revisiting the 2012 Ballon d'Or: when Andres Iniesta made a solid case for the award
The Argentine polled 41.6% of the total votes cast by national team coaches, captains as well as select journalists, while Cristiano Ronaldo (23.68%) and Andres Iniesta (10.91%) finished behind him to complete the top three.
While Messi did have a brilliant 2012, there is a case to be made for Iniesta being a more deserving winner of the Ballon d'Or that year.
Here, in continuation of our series highlighting players who deserved to win the Ballon d'Or in the decade from 2008 to 2018, we shall be making a case for why Andres Iniesta and not Lionel Messi was more deserving of the Ballon d'Or in 2012.
The 2012 Ballon d'Or winner - Lionel Messi
2012 was a spectacular year on an individual level for Lionel Messi, as the Rosario native took his goalscoring exploits to never-before-seen heights.
During the 2011/2012 season, Lionel Messi scored an incredible 73 goals and provided 29 assists in all competitions, scoring a hat-trick or more on 10 occasions.
Half of the season in question rolled over into 2012, and Messi ended the calendar year with 91 goals for club and country, breaking the 40-year-old record of 85 held previously by Germany's legendary forward, Gerd Muller in 1972.
That year also saw Messi become Barcelona's highest goalscorer of all-time at the tender age of 24, while he also became the first player in history to score five in a single Champions League fixture; doing so in the round-of-16 clash with Bayer Leverkusen.
However, on a collective level, the season failed to yield much success for Barcelona, as they ended the campaign with just the Copa del Rey to show for their efforts (although they did win the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup for the previous season).
Their LaLiga dominance was halted by a rampant Real Madrid side, while Chelsea eliminated them from the Champions League semi-final. Messi missed a crucial penalty on the night that could have taken the Blaugrana through.
The case for Andres Iniesta to have been named the Ballon d'Or winner in 2012
Andres Iniesta ended the 2011/2012 season with eight goals and 12 assists in what was an injury-blighted campaign and looking at those numbers, it would be easy to dismiss his claim to the Ballon d'Or.
However, thinking so does a great disservice to the wonderful season that Iniesta had.
Whereas other greats prided themselves on posting high numbers in the tangible facets of the game like goals and assists, the dimunitive Spanish magician was much more subtle in his application.
The Fuentabilla native was more interested in the aesthetic and technical part of the game, and these were not easily discernible to the viewing eye.
Making the difficult things look easy was what made Iniesta stand out; an effortless swivel of the waist which takes out two or more opponents and opens up space for his teammates to exploit, or effortlessly running with the ball glued to his feet as if it were a neigbourhood kickabout.
Iniesta's ball control and technique are perhaps unrivalled in history, and his signature La Croqueta move has gotten him out of many a tight situation.
The retired Spanish international was an integral member of Guardiola's final season as Barcelona manager and began the season by scoring the opening goal in the Spanish Super Cup victory over Real Madrid.
He also scored a crucial goal to make it 2-0 in the semi-final of the Champions League clash with Chelsea, although the Blaugrana would ultimately go on to be eliminated by the eventual champions.
After the season of disappointment with his club, Iniesta picked himself up, dusted himself off and went to fulfill his international duties with Spain at UEFA Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Under Vicente del Bosque's guidance, La Furia Roja became the first side in history to triumph in three successive major international tournaments and there were few who played a more important role than Iniesta.
The then 28-year-old appeared in all of Spain's six fixtures at the tournament and was named as the man-of-the-match in three of those to underline just how invaluable his contributions were.
In the showpiece event, Spain came up against an Italy and the Azzurri were marshalled by a resurgent Andrea Pirlo who was defying the physics of aging to remind everyone what it meant to be a deep-lying playmaker.
Playing as a 'regista', Pirlo dominated proceedings for Italy, dictating the tempo of matches from effectively standing in front of his defense, with his range of passing and vision playing a key role in getting an otherwise average Italian squad to the final.
In the final itself, the now-retired midfield great was outplayed in the middle and a key reason for his anonymous presence in the final was the otherworldly performance of the little Spanish maestro.
Though he did not score in the 4-0 rout, Iniesta was all over the pitch in the game, creating a lot of pre-assists and instigating moves that led to goals.
For his performance, he was adjudged as the man-of-the-match in the final to go with his receipt of the same award from two years ago in the World Cup final. He was also voted as the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2012.
UEFA Euro is the second biggest international competition in the world after the World Cup, and performances at the tournament have gone a long way in deciding the recipients of the Ballon d'Or.
Though Lionel Messi scored a record-breaking number of goals in 2012, the fact that he failed to inspire Barcelona to either the La Liga title or the UEFA Champions League was a major sore point.
By contrast, Andres Iniesta was the best performing player at the biggest football competition of 2012, and he surely deserved to have been named the Ballon d'Or winner in 2012 for his exploits at Euro.Published 02 Oct 2019, 12:47 IST