Four-goal World Cup runner-up Lionel Messi wins Golden Ball
To the surprise of many, besides Alejandro Sabella and Sepp Blatter it seems, Lionel Messi has won the esteemed World Cup Golden Ball trophy – awarded to the best player of the tournament.
The Argentina captain beat nine other shortlisted superstars to the prize, including teammates Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria, as well as his final opponents Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm. Neymar, James Rodriguez and Arjen Robben were the others nominees
And it was Messi who somehow emerged to the top of this list to reluctantly accept the award, following his side’s 1-0 defeat after extra time to Germany.
“The truth is [winning the Golden Ball] doesn’t interest me at this moment,” the 27-year-old admitted. “We wanted to win the World Cup for all the people in Argentina and we couldn’t do it. We tried, but we didn’t have the luck we had in other games.
In terms of statistics at this World Cup in Brazil, Messi scored four times in seven matches, with all of those coming in Argentina’s Group F games against lesser footballing nations Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran. That is two goals less than Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, who played two fixtures fewer and one behind Muller.”
Messi also finished level with Robin van Persie and Neymar, but it is fair to say his performances dipped from the last 16 encounter with Switzerland, and the three following matches. In those four games, the South Americans scored just twice.
It’s not as if Messi’s assists got him the award either, as his effort of two was bettered by Muller again, as well as Dutch left back Daley Blind, Kroos and Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado.
So what exactly is it that made Messi stand out above any other these finals? His national and club teammate Mascherano managed more passes with better accuracy – third in the tournament – while the defensive midfielder also topped the tackling charts.
Messi, meanwhile, places high up in terms of total shots, but has a woeful percentage on target with 40, which is less than half as Colombia’s Rodriguez, Dutch duo Van Persie and Robben and German supersub Andre Schurrle.
His manager Sabella, who is expected to resign as national boss, backed up his player, though: “I believe he is already in the pantheon of greats,” he said. “He was there before the tournament and he’s been there for a while.
“I think he deserved the Golden Ball. He played an extraordinary World Cup. He was a fundamental factor in getting us to the final. I sincerely believe he deserves it.”
Argentina were pre-tournament second-favourites with Coral, so they matched the pressure, and are behind just Germany and Spain in the betting to win the World Cup in Russia 2018 at 8/1.