Andrés Iniesta Will Win FIFA Player of the Year, But His Compatriot Should

Spencer CuellarContributor IJanuary 10, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21:  Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona looks on during the round of last 16 Copa del Rey match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium on December 21, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

I am going to make a case for the players up for the award through memory rather than statistics as 2010 was an unforgettable year for soccer.

It was a World Cup year and at a time when super clubs had dominated club football in recent years, two lesser (but no less popular) clubs in modern stature beat the big boys to get to a Champions League Final.

By that I mean Bayern Munich and Inter Milan are both huge clubs in their respective countries. Bayern being the biggest domestically and in all of Europe historically. Inter might arguably be the second biggest club in Italy at the moment. Bayern is a perennial power but of late has been mediocre. The same could have been said for Inter.

Nobody thought that the Real Madrid rejects could have led their clubs to where they did—ironically to the Santiago Bernabéu for the UEFA Champions League Final.

English clubs made up three-fourths of the semi-final spots for every season since the last World Cup. That is absolute domination, and while Inter, Bayern and others had been good, they were not grood enough to knock off the Spanish giants or the English.

It was a super shock not to see Barcelona, Manchester United, or Chelsea in the Final. Most people had two of the three in it; while others overrated Real Madrid (and continued to do so, but this debate is for another day).

As far as the World Cup goes, any World Cup is great. Therefore, it only adds to a calendar year. I completely disagree with Jose Mourinho’s inclination that the UCL is the best Final in football.

His argument is that through club you can create a super team. That is exactly why the World Cup is more important. You cannot choose who or what you are. Your teammates are not changeable. You are even closer because of this. It is far more difficult because you cannot simply buy a player that would help you.

You have to work well together with people who may not compliment you best.

I am competitive and love challenges. I am not saying the UCL is easy to win, but it is less difficult and far less important. It’s not called the World Cup by accident (although 32 countries is a rather small representation of the world).

For the first time in history, UEFA’s Ballon D’or and FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award will be combined into one. It makes sense as the Ballon D’or is for a player who plays in Europe but does not have to be European themselves.

There was no need for both awards essentially representing the same thing, seeing as no great player would play outside of Europe (unless his middle names are Robert Joseph).

This year FIFA elected to have three finalists. Recently they had invited four or five players to the ceremony. I do not understand the change although it’s not a huge deal. But in a World Cup year, you’d figure the decision would be more difficult, but apparently it's not. Then again it is a FIFA event.

The finalists are Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández.

Heading into the World Cup, I had my own idea of leaders for the award. They were: Wayne Rooney, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Maybe Lucio as an outside shot.

What Wayne Rooney did at United last season was disgusting. They lost Ronaldo and Tevez and scored more goals. Not all because of Wayne, as Darren Fletcher emerged as one of the world’s best midfielders (believe it), but he accounted for most of them.

He was red-hot in the league and the Champions League. The fact that Rooney is completely forgotten and spoken of negatively in regards to the year 2010 shows how poor the award has (and surely will continue) been dispersed and voted on.

Rooney did more with less than Drogba. His team also got further in the CL so he gets the nod even though Didier scored the most goals in the Premier League.

Where Robben was clearly Bayern’s best player as far as influence and goals, Sneijder was that for Inter. He had tons of help and great coaching, but he made them run.

Samuel Eto’o is vastly underrated (straight shot to Barca) and Diego Milito had the two Final goals, but it cannot overtake Sneijder leading the team up to and in the Final itself.

This is where I think differently than most people, including FIFA, who have proven time and again they cannot run an organization or event fairly, properly and most of all, intelligently.

When adding the World Cup to club performance, how is Wesley Sneijder not invited to the show? It is beyond absurd and if I had a more extensive vocabulary I would spew my disdain right now.

Robben was good but not great at the Cup, so he falls out. We all saw Rooney and the home fans booing the Lionesses. Brazil was knocked out early to some (I picked Holland even before the matchup was determined, assuming both would win their groups) and they let in two easy goals, which didn’t help Lucio who also captained the disappointing side.

Players who made cases for themselves that had lesser club performances were Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, best player and joint top scorer Diego Forlán, Carles Puyol, David Villa, Xavi and Iniesta.

I thought Gerard Piqué was better than Puyol overall but Puyol’s header that sent Spain into the Final would get him far more votes. I disagree with this notion but because I know how they will vote, I left Piqué out. This to me is a major fault and it’s really annoying that hard statistics carry so much weight in this awful process.

When all is considered, I guess I won’t fight the appointment of Forlán as the best player, but I will always remember the Cup as being Villa’s. He constantly scored for a dominant Spain side that found it easy to do everything but get the actual goal in many of its games.

He did not score past the quarterfinal, but he was every bit a part of all of their victories as anyone and arguably their second most important player in a team that was the exact definition of the word.

However, because he scored the Final goal, Iniesta gets credited over Villa. It makes sense in a stupid way. Of course the goal in extra time of the Final was more important, but if not for Villa’s tournament-high five, Spain could have missed the knockout rounds.

The same goes for Müller and Schweinsteiger. Müller scored more goals, but Schweinsteiger led the team in tactics and flow, therefore he was more valuable.

But UEFA and FIFA love the stats. This year’s UEFA awards saw Inter players sweep the board. Milito was deemed the best player. He is nowhere near as good, or wasn’t as valuable last season, as Eto’o and Sneidjer in total. Give me a break. One spectacular performance should not bury a full season’s worth of better play from superior teammates. It is a joke to be honest.

As I am trying to distinguish between how FIFA thinks and votes and how I feel in my head, my finalists post-World Cup would have been: Schweinsteiger, Sneijder, Forlán, Xavi and Iniesta.

In 2006, Fabio Cannavaro won the award. Diego Forlán is the closest thing we have this year to Fabio in ’06. Schweinsteiger was good for Bayern but Robben was better.

Bastian’s Cup took him past his club mate. But like Sneijder, Schweinsteiger did not win the ultimate prize so he cannot possibly be placed above a World Cup Winner.

Because he scored the last and most crucial goal, I feel FIFA will award Andrés Iniesta with the honor but it should go to Xavi.

It should have last year. I am sure there are tons of people reading this and confused at my lack of inclusion of the world’s most overrated player (or have also forgotten because he did so little for his country over the summer). Messi did next to nothing in 2010 compared to the people I have mentioned.

If he is meant to be here, then why not Cristiano Ronaldo?

There is a major contradiction with Messi. I liken him to Alex Ovechkin and LeBron James. When they win it’s all their doing. When they lose, it’s never theirs.

I don’t want to continue bashing Messi here but his team is far greater than Ronaldo’s by Barca fans’ own admittance. Yet Ronaldo is expected to do as much or more than Messi with obviously less talent around him. It’s nonsensical.

Ronaldo was more impressive in La Liga last year than Lio was. In the Champions Legaue, Messi was better. But that is easy to do when you have the other two FIFA WPoY finalists giving you the ball! Seriously people, wake up and grow a brain.

Don’t even get me started on Messi’s fantastic international summer. He led the tournament in shots without even partaking in the full allotment of games. And he’s still tied with every single one of us reading this piece at a whopping ZERO goals scored.

And of course, the argument that his team was not good enough, especially defensively, came up only after they were embarrassed by a youthful unknown German side.

Moreover, aside from Philipp Lahm, no one would have taken the German team over the Argentine side before the match began. I did and it won me $400. Yay for knowing soccer.

So as I just so effectively proved Lionel’s legitimate lack of value (and if not you’re still stuck in major denial), let me explain why Xavi should be receiving his back-to-back FIFA WPoY award tonight.

In the 2009 CL Final, Eto’o broke free and scored a decent goal on United. Barcelona then played with themselves for the next 80 minutes. Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager in the history of the game at any level, said Andrés Iniesta was the best player in the world after the Catalans dominated his side.

In my view, Messi clinched the match with a great header. Do you recall what was even better? The exceptional pass from Xavi to get it onto the mop-head. Spot on, right through the world’s greatest defense.

Unless you want to argue that Sylvinho would have had a place in the United squad that night, I rest my case.

Xavi and Iniesta tore up the United defense all night. They did what they wanted, when they wanted. The same thing occurred this summer in an even bigger tournament of games. Led by the same two people, Xavi and Iniesta. Both underappreciated, at the club level especially.

And they did it with less. If in fact Messi is the best, he’d be the best Spanish player as well, right? Theoretically it’s what you all imply.

Back to ’09, three Barcelona players had 30 goals in all competition. Therefore they are equal. I wonder who provided them with such great service…uh, Xavi, right?

The most frustrating thing for me, as a supporter of the Spanish national team but an English club team, is the cockiness and attitude of Barcelona fans and how they think they are better than everyone.

I’m sorry but Internazionale won UEFA last year in case you missed that great defensive performance by The Special One.

At a place where they themselves claim to play the game right and do not ever falter in their approach; where the build-up to the goal is equal if not more important than the finish itself…they spit on their own man.

They disregard the best player in the world. He has been since 2008 when he finally got his recognition (only to continue to be disrespected after winning the European title) for a day. La Pelopina his trademark move.

The most influential and classiest player in the world. His demeanor, team-first approach and comfortable nature in response to a lack of proper accolades make him a shining example of a football player and a man.

With the way these things go, I am going to predict a finish of Messi last, Xavi second and Iniesta winning. I hope I am wrong and miscomprehended the flawed system of determining the world’s best player, which I do think is an answerable question.

Perhaps they have changed how they judge the world’s greatest player to make sense now.

We’ve known for years now; at least I have. Children: emulate the X-Man. He is what we should all aspire to be. And I hope he rightfully gets his this evening. For once.


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