Neuer’s nomination for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or raises many eyebrows

The three finalists for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or are out — and one of them is a head-scratcher. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo made the final cut, and with good reason. They are two of the best individual players on the planet, if not the best. But the third is German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, an eyebrow-raising choice.

Messi, of Barcelona and Argentina, is a deserving candidate. He led Argentina to its first World Cup final since 1990 and was named the tournament’s best player. In spite of being hampered by an injury that kept him out for six weeks early in the 2014-15 season, he spearheaded Barca once more throughout the year and broke the all-time scoring records for La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. At 27, the record four-time winner of this award is undoubtedly still in his prime and worthy.

Ronaldo, of Real Madrid and Portugal, is too. He led La Liga in scoring for 2013-14, set a new Champions League record for goals in a season — 17 — and in so doing helped end Real’s decade-long European title drought. He won this prize last year and in 2008, and merits a third.

Messi had 52 goals and 21 assists for club and country in 2014; Ronaldo had 55 and 19. In the context of one another, these nominations make sense – this prize is voted on by national team coaches and captains and select members of the media, by the way.

But when you add in Neuer, of Bayern Munich and Germany, things get murky. Unlike the other two, who are forwards, Neuer is a goalkeeper. And this gives us a problem of definition for this award — the highest individual honor in soccer.

FIFA’s own website sets the parameters for the prize in two different ways. On the dedicated Ballon d’Or page it says the prize recognizes “the best individual talent for the past year in world football.” Yet in the press release announcing the finalists, it calls it the award for “the best player of 2014.” Wikipedia, meanwhile, and for what that’s worth, reckons the award is given to the player “who is considered to have performed the best in the previous year.”

There is real ambiguity here among the three different criteria. Having the “best individual talent” is not the same as being the “best player.” Nor does either equate to having “performed the best.” These may seem like semantics, but they underscore how vague this award really is. Perhaps that’s because this prize is an amalgamation of the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or — which were merged into one award in 2010. The former was said to be given to the best player, the latter to the best performer.

The trouble is, even when you are the best, you can be outperformed. Injuries and circumstance are the variables there.

Now, here’s where it gets really sticky: Are you considered the “best” or the “best performer” or even the “best talent” for how you did individually or how your team did thanks to your individual efforts? Soccer, perhaps more than any other sport, is a team game that doesn’t allow for easy statistical quantifying. Analytics have come a long way, but it’s still desperately difficult to measure a player’s share in his team’s success.
From a team perspective, Neuer was the big winner among these three this year. Bayern won another domestic double and Germany won the World Cup, where he was named the top goalkeeper. He was crucial to both campaigns. But how do you compare an attacker to a goalkeeper? One is tasked with scoring or creating goals, the other with preventing them. That’s like comparing a sword to a shield. Or a sports car to a policeman’s radar gun. Or the sun to sunscreen. Well, you get the idea.

It’s hard to quantify whether a goalkeeper can have as much of an effect on a team’s fortunes as an outfield player. An argument could be made that a great goalkeeper saves fewer goals, compared to an average one, than a great striker can add, relative to the standard forward’s output. Arguments could probably be made to reason the opposite point as well.

Looking at the history of this award, however, it is, by and large, reserved for forwards and attacking-minded midfielders. That’s both protocol and fact. So it follows that Neuer was included among the finalists in recognition of his teams’ achievements. But Messi’s teams won nothing this year, while Ronaldo won at the club level but saw his country falter at the World Cup, getting bounced in the group stage.

We had this problem last year, too, when Franck Ribery came third, even though his Bayern side had just won the treble. The World Cup only complicated matters further this year.

Who wins this award, then, will depend on how the voters judge the ill-defined criteria for this award. If this is an individual-as-part-of-a-team-performance award, Neuer should win it. If it counts for the greatest contribution to a club’s success, Ronaldo should have it. And if this a prize in recognition of almost single-handedly dragging your country into the final of the biggest tournament in the sport, it should be Messi’s.

Nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2014 awards revealed

The contenders for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the best player of 2014 and for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2014 award were announced today on FIFA.com, francefootball.fr and YouTube.

In alphabetical order, the FIFA Ballon d’Or nominees are: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Manuel Neuer (Germany), while Nadine Kessler (Germany), Marta (Brazil) and Abby Wambach (USA) will contest the women’s award.

The candidates for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football and FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football awards were also announced. In alphabetical order, the contenders are: Carlo Ancelotti (Italy/Real Madrid CF), Joachim Loew (Germany/German national team) and Diego Simeone (Argentina/Atletico de Madrid) for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award, and Ralf Kellermann (Germany/VfL Wolfsburg), Maren Meinert (Germany/Germany U-19 and U-20 national teams) and Norio Sasaki (Japan/Japan national team) for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football award.

All the nominees were confirmed after a voting process which was open to the captains and head coaches of the men’s and women’s national teams of the 209 member associations as well as to international media representatives selected by FIFA and France Football voted for candidates.

The percentages of the collected votes are as follows (number of votes/number of associations):

Voting for men’s awards:
Member associations (captains & coaches): 87%
Media representatives: 94%

Voting for women’s awards:
Member associations (captains & coaches): 83%
Media representatives: 77%

The voting procedure for each of the awards is supervised and monitored by the independent observer PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Switzerland.

The shortlist of 15 forwards for the FIFA FIFPro World XI was also announced, completing the final shortlist of 55 players also featuring five goalkeepers, 20 defenders and 15 midfielders.

The forward shortlist is (home country, club):
Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City FC); Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid CF); Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid CF); Diego Costa (Spain/Chelsea FC); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid CF); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Paris St-Germain FC); Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich); Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona); Thomas Muller (Germany/FC Bayern Munich); Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona); Marco Reus (Germany/Borussia Dortmund); Arjen Robben (Netherlands/FC Bayern Munich); Franck Ribery (France / FC Bayern Munich); Wayne Rooney (England/Manchester United FC); Luis Suarez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona).

See the full list on FIFA.com

In addition, the three nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” were announced. The three final goals are: Stephanie Roche – 20 October 2013, Peamount United v Wexford Youths, BEWNL (Ireland Republic); James Rodriguez – 28 June 2014, Colombia v Uruguay, 2014 FIFA World Cupâ„¢; Robin van Persie – 13 June 2014, Spain v Netherlands, 2014 FIFA World Cupâ„¢.

All the awards will be presented at the FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on 12 January 2015 during a televised show to be streamed live on FIFA.com and FIFA on YouTube.

In addition to the above awards, the recipient of the FIFA Presidential Award and the winner of the FIFA Fair Play award will also be revealed during the award ceremony.

World Of Warcraft Collectible Figure: Preorder Beautiful Statue Of Orc Hero Grommash Hellscream

The figure is set to ship at the end of August 2015. Gromm is one of the most celebrated of all the Orcish leaders during the early days of the Horde. A deadly blademaster and closest confidant to Warchief Thrall, Gromm was both the beginning and ending of the terrible demon curse that befell the once noble Orcs of Draenor. He was the first to drink the blood of Mannoroth, sending the horde into a hellish rage, but was also the orc who dealt the twisted demon his fatal blow.Expected In August 2015

Gromm’s figure stands 18 inches tall. He is in mid-stride, wielding his famous axe Gorehowl from atop the dead corpse of Mannoroth. All the rage in the world etched on his face. “Art directed by Nick Carpenter (Vice President, Art & Cinematic Development, Cinematics), sculpted by staff Senior Sculptor Brian Fay and featuring an original paintmaster by Senior Illustrator Laurel Austin, the full terror and awe of Grommash is realized in 3D sparring no detail.”

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The figure retails for $350. You can head over to the official page to put in your pre-order. Currently, there is no limit to the number of figures that will be created. So order as many as your heart desires.

Gromm Hellscream is alive once more in Warlords of Draenor, the fifth expansion to World of Warcraft in which Gromm’s son, Garrosh, travels back in time to rewrite the history of the Horde and all of Azeroth.
You can pick up Warlords of Draenor over at the battle.net store.
So, which other Warlords do you want to see rendered in beautiful collectible figure form? Tell us below in the comments. Pre-order Gromm Hellscream HERE.