Substance Over Style: Nemanja Vidic Named for Ballon d'Or Shortlist

Nathan LoweAnalyst IOctober 19, 2008

On the heels of a thorough and defensively dominant display at home to West Bromich Albion in the English Premier League, Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic was included in the 30-man shortlist for European Player of the Year.

It comes not only as a surprise but a victory for so many defenders mired in relative anonymity when the staunch dominance of their craft goes so often overlooked for more stylish offensive players.

Rio Ferdinand, Vidic's established partner in defense, is more of the second ilk, passing smoothly and turning artfully, but his nose is much less likely to ever be bloodied.

It is in fact Vidic who provides the nucleus of the defense. Vidic is the archetype ball-winner, always contending aerially, getting his head in where it hurts, and using strength over guile, while Ferdinand assumes a more distributive, interactive role only once the carnage has cleared.

While Ferdinand assumes the typified role of a yelling, screaming, inspirational British captain, Nemanja leads through eastern European stoicism and lengthy unassuming periods of consistently world-class form.

In truth, all four of United's defenders had great a campaign in 2007, as each member of the back line started over 40 games for United, allowing just 15 goals in the top flight, only second to Chelsea, earning both Vidic and Ferdinand places in the 2007-2008 PFA Team of the Year. United also allowed merely six goals in 13 games en route to their 1-1 victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champion's League final. 

However, Ferdinand was not short-listed for the Golden Ball award despite having good form in the second of two consecutive years for United, after the failure to attend a drug test and other factors contributed to a loss in form in years following his huge-money deal from Leeds United in 2002.

French Football magazine has again done well in the discernment of player form, without the often accompanied superficial regard for the visible flare and inflated statistics of attacking players. It is a fair omen when recognition is given to the blue-collar base in a game's dynamic instead of proffering more gratuitous awe for the more stylized bourgeois attackers.

With that said, Cristiano Ronaldo is the rightful favorite for this years Ballon d'Or, but there is honor in the mention for the Serbian Vidic.

2008 Ballon d'Or Shortlist