UEFA president Michel Platini doesn't believe Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi should win the 2014 Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo is currently major favourite to win his third accolade, per Oddschecker, with Messi touted as the second most likely to scoop the prize. While it's difficult to outline two players who have posted better individual performances across the calendar year, Platini told BeIN Sports he believes a German World Cup winner should be handed the prize, as reported by AS:
The Ballon d'Or tends to go to a player who has performed exceptionally well at the World Cup, someone who won it, so this year it should be for a Germany player. It was always that way until 2010 when Leo Messi won despite having a fairly average World Cup, so nothing is for certain.
Although Platini said "nobody doubts" Ronaldo and Messi "are two of the best players in the world," he appears to prioritise the major trophy win above all. He highlights something of a grey area in the voting process by doing so.
The Ballon d'Or is meant to take into account every single competitive match—be it for club or country—but Platini undermines this by placing emphasis on the tournament. He somewhat discredits the importance of the 11 non-World Cup months with surprising comments for a man who won the award three times without landing the international trophy.
Both Ronaldo and Messi have posted exquisite years, despite suffering with serious injury problems.
The former broke the Champions League goalscoring record for a single season with 17 strikes en route to La Decima, while he also played a major role in landing the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid. Ronaldo has scored 17 goals across nine games in La Liga and Europe this season, per WhoScored.com, not to mention the Golden Shoe award he secured for being the continent's joint top scorer alongside Luis Suarez last season.
Ronaldo suffered a poor, injury-ridden World Cup with Portugal, however. He netted just once and appeared off the pace as his patellar tendinosis caused obvious problems. This is one area where Messi could make up ground after scoring four goals and leading Argentina to the World Cup final, winning the competition's Golden Ball in the process.
Messi netted 36 across the domestic division and Champions League last season, compared to Ronaldo's 48, per WhoScored. He struggled to find full fitness at the start of the year after suffering a lengthy lay-off, but he showed in Brazil how he can significantly influence games without being 100 percent fit.
The maestro recently scored his 400th career goal and is two away from breaking Telmo Zarra's all-time La Liga record, an achievement which could sway votes. Messi has an impressive eight goals and eight assists in 10 appearances this season after rediscovering some of his best form under new Barcelona boss Luis Enrique. The Blaugrana's lack of trophies may work against him, though.
Platini's comments suggest players such as Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze and Philipp Lahm should be considered higher than Ronaldo and Messi due to their team success.
It is perhaps Neuer who holds the best claim to the title after a string of stunning saves at the World Cup and his dominant play for Bayern Munich. He is an individual who has progressed the goalkeeping role over the last couple of seasons.
Neuer's sweeper-styled play—which sees him bomb off his line to tackle opponents head on—combines with his stunning reflexes to make an often immovable force in goal for club and country. He won the Golden Glove trophy at the World Cup and was recently on the top three for the Best Player in Europe Award, a continental Ballon d'Or of sorts, but he ultimately lost out to Ronaldo.
Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney doesn't believe Neuer can claim the top individual prize:
Next year's award will be given on Jan. 15. It is entirely possible the performance of aforementioned players from now until voting could define who receives the Ballon d'Or. Messi's imminent achievements certainly have the power to put pressure on Ronaldo, particularly as the Argentinian posted a stellar World Cup.
While Ronaldo should deservedly be considered the most likely winner after his own record-breaking year, Platini indicates Germany's success could pay dividends for one of their World Cup heroes.