FIFA Ballon D'Or 2012: 10 Premier League Stars Who Could Beat Lionel Messi
Arsenal's Robin van Persie could be among the Premier League stars to pip Lionel Messi for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi won his third consecutive Ballon d'Or title on Monday with journalists questioning whether the Argentina international could well be the greatest player of all-time, despite being just 24.
He's certainly had a phenomenal 2011, ending last season with 53 goals and 24 assists in 55 games, and starting this term with a crazy 31 goals in just 28 matches with 14 assists.
However, he's not the only player doing well at the moment, and with the Premier League in its best goalscoring form for a long time, we could see a challenger to Messi come from England's top-flight in 2012.
Here's why Arsenal striker van Persie and nine others could be contenders for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2012.
Robin Van Persie
Having finally shaken off his injury doubts, Robin van Persie is in the most confident form of his life and is reaching his athletic peak.
The 28-year-old scored 35 goals in 2011 and so far has 17 goals and six assists in 20 Premier League games, topping the league's goalscoring charts.
And he's showing no signs of stopping, aided by the fact he's revelling in his new found role and status as the main man at Arsenal, as confirmed not only by Arsene Wenger, but also returning legend Thierry Henry.
When a player gets such support from his team and is already in the form of his life athletically and performance-wise, there's no stopping what he can achieve.
Demba Ba is another player in the form of his life.
But unlike van Persie at Arsenal, Ba is rather more shackled by the more defensive approach laid out by his Newcastle United team.
If the 26-year-old has a good African Cup of Nations tournament with Senegal this month, continues his goalscoring form for the Toon until the end of the season and then earns a big money move to a top team with more creativity and a more attacking approach, he could well become one of the most prolific strikers in the game.
That's all quite feasible in 2012 for Ba, meaning he could well be a challenger for the 2012 Ballon d'Or award.
Sergio Aguero, despite being just 23, has long since proved himself as one of the world's best strikers.
This season he's doing it again, this time for Manchester City, scoring 17 goals and making five assists so far this term, as he refuses to be weighed down by his £38 million price tag—Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, take note.
If he replicates that form in the second half of the campaign, he should end the season with 34 goals and ten assists—not bad at all for a first season in English football.
And following that logic, after a hugely successful year adapting to life and football in England, the 2012-13 season should be even better for the Argentine.
If it is, there's no doubt Aguero will challenge Lionel Messi for the honour of being the world's best.
Wayne Rooney might actually challenge that man to his right.
The Manchester United striker has been in good goalscoring form so far this season with 17 goals in 23 games and has proved himself as one of the most complete forwards in the sport.
Able to play as a trequartista or deeper, Rooney not only scores goals, but he can start them off too, having hit more accurate long balls than any other player classified as a forward in Europe.
An excellent all-round attacker, if Rooney keeps up his goalscoring form in 2012 and maybe makes a few more assists, there's no doubt he'll at least be a contender for the Ballon d'Or.
David Silva is proof that it's not just forwards who are match-winners.
The Manchester City star has emerged as the best playmaker in the Premier League and is excelling in his second season at Eastlands.
The 26-year-old has made ten assists this season, more than any other Premier League player, and also creates more one-on-one chances for teammates than anyone in the league.
In all competitions this season, he has six goals and 15 assists, meaning in theory, he should end the season with at least 12 goals and 30 assists.
And if he does that, not only will he be a great midfield goalscorer and the best assist-maker in the world, but will also surely be a contender against Lionel Messi.
Yaya Toure is without doubt the best passer in the Premier League, even better than Swansea City midfielder Leon Britton, who actually has the best passing accuracy rate in Europe.
Manchester City's midfield dynamo is the player who makes every other player tick—he's possibly the reason why David Silva, and therefore Sergio Aguero, are on this list.
On average, Toure hits 78 passes per game, more than any other player in the Premier League. He does so with a 90 percent accuracy rate, as well, which is by far the best rate of almost any player in the world in relation to the amount of passes hit (for example, Leon Britton hits 20 passes less per game).
And seeing as Xavi Hernandez, long respected as the best passer in football, only lost out in the Ballon d'Or award because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo score so many goals, if Toure can reach the Barca man's passing range (he's almost there), then he will no doubt be a contender, especially if the goals dry up for Ronaldo or Messi.
Juan Mata, in comparison to Chelsea's other transfer spends, is an absolute bargain at £23.5 million.
He's scored six goals and made nine assists this season, but much more impressively, makes each game on average: 3.1 key passes, 2.8 long balls and 1.8 accurate crosses, hitting on average 88.4 percent of his 46.8 passes per game accurately, while having also created eight one-on-one chances for teammates.
The above may seem like meaningless statistics, but what they actually spell out, combined with his goals and assists, is the proof that 23-year-old Mata is virtually on the same level as Spain teammate David Silva as a playmaker.
Given his key pass (chances created) totals, if Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba had found their goalscoring boots, and if Frank Lampard had started more games, Mata could well have had almost double the amount of assists he currently has.
If he continues in 2012 like he ended 2011 and has a decent striker in front of him, Juan Mata could easily be a Ballon d'Or challenger.
Gareth Bale is once again proving himself as one of the best wingers in the world.
The 22-year-old Tottenham Hotspur star already has a great track record, yet at 22, is still the definition of phenomenal potential.
There's no doubting he will definitely one day finish in the top three of the FIFA Ballon d'Or, and might even challenge in 2012 if he keeps up his form.
He has seven league goals and six assists from the wing, and has won a staggering five Man of the Match awards so far this season, having also made 55 key passes, the second most in the Premier League behind Juan Mata.
But what makes Bale so great is that, given that he started out as a left-back, he has better defensive ability than almost all other wingers in the game, making at least one accurate tackle per match, as well as at least one key interception and one effective clearance, and rarely ever allows his opposition number get the better of him on the pitch.
If he keeps up his form, Gareth Bale might just be a contender.
Nani is the poor man's Cristiano Ronaldo, yet, the star of Manchester United.
He has slightly lower playmaking ability than fellow wingers Gareth Bale and Juan Mata, given he makes less key passes, but is just as direct in terms of goalscoring contribution (i.e. goals and assists).
And he may have less defensive ability than Bale, but he is the best winger in the league for carrying the ball forward and making something happen with it in the most important area of the pitch—the opponent's final third.
The 25-year-old is perhaps the best direct winger in the world. That is, he's the best of the wide-men who stay the whole game on the wing but cut into the penalty area to try and score or directly assist a goal.
If he ups his form in 2012, it could be enough to see him challenge for the Ballon d'Or.
Luka Modric is wanted by Chelsea and Manchester United, and rated at £40 million, for a reason.
This season, the 26-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has hit more accurate long balls than any other outfield Premier League player.
A breakdown of his statistics are as follows: 67.6 passes per game, 7.8 accurate long balls per match, 2.3 key passes per game, 0.5 accurate through balls per match, 1.1 accurate crosses per game, 1.6 dribbles completed per match, 1.8 tackles per game, 2 interceptions per match.
What those figures show is that Modric is the attacking heartbeat of Tottenham Hotspur.
No other player in the Premier League is able to do combined each game what Modric does, that is:
- accurately give the ball eight times to a teammate halfway across the pitch who beat his marker
- create two moments in a game where a teammate only has to put his foot through the ball to have a shot on goal
- set up a one-on-one for a teammate once every two games
- take the ball and run with it into the opponent's final third, evading tackles to create a goalscoring chance once every game
- stop an opponent taking the ball into the defensive third four times a game.
If Luka Modric keeps that up and maybe adds a few more goals and assists, he'll surely be a FIFA Ballon d'Or contender soon enough.