Lionel Messi (Argentina): 2014 World Cup Golden Ball Contenders

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Why Lionel Messi should be awarded the Golden Ball award for best player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Thomas Muller (GERMANY)
Neymar (BRAZIL)
Arjen Robben (NETHERLANDS)
James Rodriguez (COLOMBIA)

Like the bookmakers, I fancy Brazil to win the World Cup itself, in which case one may argue that Neymar is the obvious choice for the Golden Ball.

However, FIFA are not like UEFA, who, without fail, present their individual awards to a member of the trophy-winning team.

In fact, not since 1994, when Brazil’s Romario was celebrated, has the Golden Ball been given to a player who had just lifted the greatest prize of them all.

I am not saying World Cup winners should be exempt – far from it – and anyway, who am I to say that Messi will not fire Argentina to their first World Cup triumph since 1986?

My point is that FIFA will award the Golden Ball to the best individual performer of the tournament and, despite the moaning about him not being at his best, that has been Messi so far.

The Barcelona star has started four games, scored four goals and been named man of the match four times.

He has completed more successful dribbles, 24, and more key passes, 18, than any other player in the competition.

The 27-year-old has come up with the goods under pressure as well, providing a 118th-minute assist in Argentina’s 1-0 extra-time win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

If Messi maintains his current level and Argentina reach the final, which is very likely, he is a shoe in for the Golden Ball.

Should the little master raise his game by 10 per cent and help Argentina end their 28-year wait for global footballing domination, he will also officially become a national legend, a true equal of the great Diego Maradona.

However, if Argentina are eliminated by Belgium in Saturday’s quarter-final, Messi’s world class contribution will be swiftly – and a tad unfairly – forgotten.

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