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When Lionel Messi made a solid case for the 2014 Ballon d'Or award 

Elvis Ume O
ANALYST
Feature
264   //    09 Oct 2019, 20:06 IST

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2014
FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2014

The 2014 Ballon d'Or was the fifth year of FIFA handing out the award and the winner was revealed at a gala in Zürich on 12 January 2015.

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo was named the winner, polling 37.66% of the total votes, with Lionel Messi (15.76%) and Manuel Neuer (15.72%) rounding up the podium.

However, while Cristiano Ronaldo might have been a deserving winner of the award, Lionel Messi was also worthy of the 2014 Ballon d'Or.

Here, in continuation of our series highlighting players who should have won Ballon d'Or's between 2008 and 2018, we shall be making a case for why Lionel Messi and not Cristiano Ronaldo should have won the 2014 Ballon d'Or.

Also Read: Revisiting the 2008 Ballon d'Or: when Fernando Torres made a solid case for the award

The 2014 winner - Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final
Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final

Having played second fiddle for over four years, Cristiano Ronaldo won a second Ballon d'Or in 2013 and made it two in quick succession by winning the 2014 edition.

The Madeira native had been the star of the show as Real Madrid won a long-awaited 'La Decima,' scoring a never-before-seen 17 goals from just 11 matches, while he also contributed four assists as Los Blancos lifted their 10th Champions League trophy in his native Portugal.

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He was less potent in LaLiga, but still scored 31 goals and assisted a further 11 from 30 matches although his efforts were in vain, as Real Madrid could only finish third in the league.

Copa del Rey glory was also secured by the capital club, but Ronaldo sat out the final with Barcelona due to injury, but he still contributed to the success with three goals and one assist from six matches.

After starring with eight goals during qualification for the 2014 World Cup, Ronaldo was in danger of missing out on the Mundial due to a thigh injury, but he persevered and was named into the final 23-man squad for Los Selecao.

Despite being forced to sit out some training sessions in the build-up to the tournament, Ronaldo still started all three of Portugal's World Cup matches but was powerless to stop their elimination at the group stage.

He ended the World Cup with one goal and assist from three matches as Portugal were toppled in the group by Germany and the United States.

Also Read: Revisiting the 2011 Ballon d'Or: When Cristiano Ronaldo made a solid case for the award

The case for Lionel Messi to have been named the 2014 Ballon d'Or winner

FC Barcelona v AFC Ajax - UEFA Champions League
FC Barcelona v AFC Ajax - UEFA Champions League

By his usual high standards, the 2013/2014 season was a disappointing one for Lionel Messi both personally and collectively.

Barcelona narrowly lost the LaLiga title by goal difference to Atletico Madrid on the last day, their Champions League campaign was also ended at the quarterfinal stage by the same rivals, while Real Madrid defeated them in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Individually, Messi scored 28 goals - his lowest return in the last decade - and assisted a further 11 from 31 LaLiga matches, although, it is pertinent to note that his campaign was blighted by injuries.

In the Copa del Rey, he posted five goals and assisted three times from six matches, while on the continent, eight goals were all that he could manage as Barcelona got knocked out in the last eight by a defiant Atletico Madrid.

Seeing how poor his campaign on the club scene was, it is almost scandalous to suggest that Lionel Messi deserved the 2014 Ballon d'Or, but it must be remembered that 2014 was a World Cup year.

Also Read: Revisiting the 2009 Ballon d'Or: When Xavi Hernandez made a solid case for the award

After failing spectacularly at the 2010 World Cup and the Copa America a year later, Argentina came into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as one of the outsiders and few people gave them many chances of making a mark at the tournament.

However, in unexpected scenes, Los Albiceleste made it to the final and Lionel Messi was the driving force behind them getting that far.

The Rosario native was hands down the best player in the group stage, as he scored four of Argentina's six goals to help the South American giants top a group also containing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria, and Iran.

In the round-of-16, he assisted for Angel di Maria to score the game's only goal in an extra-time victory over Switzerland.

Messi was also instrumental in the quarterfinal win over Belgium and initiated the attack that led to the opening goal in the 1-0 win over the Red Devils.

Messi was the best player at the 2014 World Cup
Messi was the best player at the 2014 World Cup

This saw Argentina qualify for their first World Cup semifinal since 1990 and after a goalless draw with the Netherlands, Messi showed great initiative to take and score the first penalty in an eventual 4-2 penalty shootout victory over the Europeans.

Their first final in 24 years ultimately ended in defeat against the Germans, as Mario Gotze scored a 113th-minute goal to sink Argentine hearts.

However, football is game of what-ifs and narrow margins and Argentina's story at the 2014 World Cup would have been different if Rodrigo Palacio and Gonzalo Higuain had not missed gilt-edged chances.

For his efforts, Messi was handed the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and despite criticisms over his receipt of the award, it could be argued that no player outperformed the Argentine in the tournament.

Also Read: Revisiting the 2012 Ballon d'Or: When Andres Iniesta made a solid case for the award

He was named the man-of-the-match in each of Argentina's first four matches, created the most chances, completed the most dribbling runs, made the most deliveries into the penalty area and produced the most through-balls in the competition.

The World Cup is the biggest footballing competition in the world, and it stands to reason that the best player in the competition should be handed the Ballon d'Or in any World Cup year.

While Cristiano Ronaldo might have performed at extraterrestrial levels in the 2014 Champions League, the fact that he underperformed at the World Cup rendered his displays elsewhere moot.

Lionel Messi was the best player at the 2014 World Cup, and just like Wesley Sneijder's snub in 2010, his failure to win the 2014 Ballon d'Or was a major travesty.

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