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Revisiting the 2016 Ballon d'Or: When Antoine Griezmann made a solid case for the award

Elvis Ume O
ANALYST
Feature
15 Oct 2019, 12:59 IST

Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann

The 2016 Ballon d'Or saw the award reverted to its previous format of being handed out by France Football, after five years in FIFA's jurisdiction. The winner was decided exclusively by the votes of journalists, discarding the pattern applied by FIFA which also considered votes from national team coaches and captains.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the award with a record margin of 429 points, while Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann completed the podium.

Here, in continuation of our series highlighting players who should have won Ballon d'Or awards between 2008 and 2018, we shall be making a case for why Griezmann was a worthy winner of the 2016 award.

The 2016 Ballon d'Or winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo won his fourth Ballon d'Or in December 2016
Ronaldo won his fourth Ballon d'Or in December 2016

Having won a long-awaited 10th Champions League trophy in 2014, Real Madrid made it 11 when they dispatched Atletico Madrid in the final played at San Siro in May 2016.

It was to be the first of three won consecutively by Los Blancos, and their record goalscorer played a key role in the run. In total Ronaldo scored 16 goals from 12 matches on the continent, and there were many notable personal milestones during the campaign.

His hat-trick in the quarterfinal second-leg against Wolfsburg helped Real Madrid overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to progress. He also became the first player to score double figures (11) in the Champions League group stage.

There was less collective success elsewhere, but Ronaldo still starred with 51 goals from 48 matches in all competitions, while also becoming Real Madrid's record goalscorer during the season.

On the international scene, the Madeira native weighed in with three goals and captained Portugal as they won their first major trophy at Euro 2016 in France.

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The case for Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann had a spectacular 2016
Griezmann had a spectacular 2016

After starring for five seasons with Real Sociedad, Griezmann joined Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2014 and rose to worldwide prominence with his performance during the 2015-16 campaign.

He was the star of the show, scoring seven goals from 13 matches to help Atletico Madrid qualify for the final of the Champions League - where they fell to a 5-4 defeat on penalties to their city rivals Real Madrid.

There were plenty of notable displays by Griezmann en route Atletico's run to the final. He scored the two goals in a 2-0 second-leg victory over Barcelona to knock the holders out in the quarterfinal. He also scored the decisive away goal against Bayern Munich in the last four.

In LaLiga, the Macon native was again heavily influential, scoring 22 and assisting five. Los Colchoneros missed out on the league title to Barcelona by a narrow margin of three points.

In total, Griezmann scored 32 goals (his highest return in his career till date) from 54 matches. And even though he ended the season trophyless, it took nothing away from his performance that season. The fact that he was able to post such high goals returns in a notoriously defensive Atletico side was commendable, to say the least.

The current Barcelona star, however, did not stop there. He carried his goalscoring form with him to the European Championship, hosted in his home nation.

Despite beginning the tournament with a poor performance in the opening day 2-1 victory over Romania, Griezmann sprang to life from the second match and scored a last-minute goal from the bench to wrap up a 2-0 win over Albania.

Griezmann was voted as the tournament's best player at Euro 2016
Griezmann was voted as the tournament's best player at Euro 2016

From then on there was no stopping him. He netted both goals as France completed a 2-1 comeback victory over the Republic of Ireland in the Round of 16 at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.

The quarterfinal was largely a Griezmann affair, as he contributed two assists and a goal to help Les Bleus defeat the surprise package of the tournament, Iceland, by the score of 5-2.

This ensured their progress to the semifinal, where they came up against familiar opponents Germany. Griezmann once again put up a commanding performance and scored both goals in a 2-0 victory for the hosts to send them through to the final against Portugal.

Neither side could be separated in the final after 90 minutes, but an Eder goal in the 109th minute ensured that the French did not win their third Euro title.

Griezmann ended the tournament with six goals and two assists from seven games, winning the tournament's Golden Boot in the process. He also became only the second payer after Michel Platini (nine) in 1984 to score more than five goals in a single edition.

For his efforts, Griezmann was named the competition's best player. And while Ronaldo might have ultimately taken home the trophy, it was unarguable that Griezmann outperformed everyone else.

Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that Ronaldo did not play a key role in Portugal's final victory. He was substituted just 25 minutes into the game, after being brought down by Dmitri Payet.

The former Real Madrid star might have been the most visible component of Los Blancos' Champions League triumph in 2016, but he was ably supported by a plethora of world beaters who made his job easier.

By contrast, Griezmann had to carry the bulk of Atletico's attacking impetus on his shoulders. The fact that he discharged his duties so effectively while also outperforming Ronaldo in Europe's biggest football competition made him a more deserving winner of the 2016 Ballon d'Or.

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