Victory for Iniesta in the Ballon D’or would be a triumph for the team over the individual.
Andres Iniesta leads the nominations for the World Player of the Year Award, to be decided in January. But he could yet be beaten by Inter Milan and Holland playmaker Wesley Sneijder, who won the treble this year and guided his country to the World Cup Final. And then there’s Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan has outshone even the current World Player of the Year on the biggest stage of all.
Andrés Iniesta could be the most unassuming individual to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award. We are used to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, or in a time gone by a Cruyff or Pélé. Icing on the cake players, whose spectacular goals demand everyone’s attention.
Iniesta is different. A player with a touch as gifted as any of the above, he is a diminutive and quiet character from Pamplona, the front runner for this year’s award after scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final. Iniesta doesn’t just possess sublime touch and passing ability, but he is able to dribble with the ball superbly, creating numerous chances for club and country. And he scores crucial goals. The World Cup final, and against Chelsea in the Champions League the year before. Goals that decide the biggest of games.
The second favourite for the award is Inter Milan and Holland midfielder Wesley Sneijder. If he falls short when the votes are counted, it will surely be by single figures. The creative genius at the heart of the Inter Milan side which set records this year with their triple success in the Italian league, cup and the Champions League, he also spearheaded the Dutch World Cup run to the final. It was he who was at the heart of their stunning fightback against Brazil in the quarter finals.
If there is an outsider who may surprise everyone and jump to the front of the queue, it is Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan forward drove his team forward both at club and international level, ending Atletico Madrid’s 14 year wait for a trophy by helping them to the Europa League. It was in the latter that Forlan showed his class, scoring the goals to knock out Liverpool in the semi final before scoring a sublime brace in the final to help them defeat Fulham. And he still had something special in store for June, with some wonderful goals as he led the Uruguayan charge to the semi-finals. With the likes of Messi and Kaka expected to lead their sides hopes for World Cup glory, Forlan surprisingly outshone them both on the biggest stage and was this year’s leading South American. It says a lot for Forlan that he is considered above Messi in the running for this year’s award – the Argentina forward has been scintillating as usual this year, and has not dropped his own standards.
When the winner is announced in January, Iniesta will be the deserving favourite for the award. What would arguably be the most fitting result would be some kind of joint Iniesta-Xavi Players of the Year accolade. Xavi is the player not mentioned here who would be a deserving winner of the award, for his marvelous passing and creativity. The two are intrinsically linked, from being teenagers in the same youth team, to leading their club and country to the greatest prizes in the world. The play of both sides revolves around the Xavi-Iniesta axis, and it is their collective brilliance which has shone above all others this year. If anything, they are the antithesis of individual honours, demonstrating the triumph of the intelligence of the collective over the force and genius of the individual.