Ballon d'Or

Barcelona and Messi’s Ballon d’Or robbery

Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the worst Ballon d’Or decision in history

5:52pm on Sunday 10th January 2021
Carlo Garganese

For many, it marked the moment where the FIFA Ballon d’Or could no longer be taken seriously.

Lionel Messi took to the stage in Zurich on 10 January 2011 to collect football’s most prestigious prize for a second successive year.

His club team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi completed an all-Barcelona podium in undoubtedly the biggest robbery in Ballon d’Or history.

Messi had, of course, enjoyed an outstanding club season for a generational Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola. He had scored 47 goals in all competitions and won La Liga.

However, he had fallen short in the two competitions which carry the most weight when it comes to deciding the Ballon d’Or.

Barcelona were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Inter, with Messi struggling in both legs.

He had also endured a miserable 2010 World Cup. Despite being billed as the best player in the world for a star-studded Argentina team, he failed to score a single goal as Diego Maradona’s team were eliminated in the quarter-finals.

2010 Ballon d'Or Top 10

1. Lionel MessiBarcelona
2. Andres IniestaBarcelona
3. XaviBarcelona
4. Wesley SneijderInter
5. Diego ForlanAtletico Madrid
6. RonaldoReal Madrid
7. Iker CasillasReal Madrid
8. David VillaBarcelona
9. Didier DrogbaChelsea
10. Xabi AlonsoReal Madrid

One player who lit up both the Champions League and World Cup that year was Wesley Sneijder, who most neutrals agree should have won the vote by a landslide.

He inspired Inter to a historic treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League trophies. He was particularly pivotal in the Champions League success, scoring a crucial late goal in the group stages versus Dinamo Kiev, a free kick against CSKA Moscow in the quarters and a key goal in the semi-final win over Barcelona. In the final itself he delivered a brilliant assist for Diego Milito for the opening goal against Bayern Munich.

As for the World Cup, Sneijder was the Netherlands’ star man as they progressed all the way to the final in South Africa. He was joint-top scorer in the tournament with five goals, scoring both goals in the shock quarter-final win over Brazil and another strike in the semi-final victory over Uruguay. He was also awarded the Silver Ball as the second best player in the tournament, behind Uruguay’s Diego Forlan.

Despite all these heroics, Sneijder somehow only finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or rankings.

He was placed behind both Iniesta and Xavi who, despite both being world-class performers, simply did not have the same level of tangible output as Sneijder. Between both Spaniards, they had scored four La Liga goals all season, although Iniesta did hit the winner in the World Cup final.

Incredibly, despite winning the Champions League and the treble, Inter’s only representative in the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or rankings was Sneijder.

Worst of all was the absence of Diego Milito entirely from the 23-man shortlist for the award.

Milito had scored both Champions League final goals, scored or assisted all of Inter’s goals in the semi-final versus Barcelona, scored the final day winner to win Serie A, scored the Coppa Italia final winner and scored 30 goals in total for his club in 2009/10.

Instead, on the shortlist were the likes of Asamoah Gyan after scoring 13 goals and finishing 9th with Rennes, and Miroslav Klose after scoring three Bundesliga goals all season.

Ten years on from this day of footballing infamy, it is fair to say that the Ballon d’Or has never recovered its reputation.

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