Fabio Cannavaro won the Ballon d’Or after the 2006 World Cup, largely, if not totally, on the back of Italy’s success. It was a rare feat for a defender but served only to prove that it was possible. The winner of the Ballon d’Or is usually chosen, in recent years, from one of the better teams in the European Champions League, regarded as the epitome of top level football comeptition. The idea is that if you, and subsequently your team, excel in the Champions League, where the standard is so high and the pressure so intense, then you are deserving of the individual award. Typically, the best player in the Champions League is also an attacker.
The best player in the Champions League in the past season was Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich but players from losing finalists are infrequently considered. In recent years there is an unwritten rule, the winner of the Ballon d’Or should not play for a team who loses a major final. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two previous winners of the award, are not expecting to recieve the award on the back of their past campain either. Cristiano Ronaldo won it in 2008 and Lionel Messi in 2009 on the back of Champions League success with their teams. Both were impressive during the past season but neither reached the levels they have previously.
Internazionale Milan, the current Champions League winners, do not have a player considered worthy of the award on the basis of their individual performances.Internazionale’s success was very much a team effort, with equal contributions throughout. If pushed, Diego Milito, the clinical striker who scored the all important goal in the final, is probably the most obvious candidate but would be the most limited recipient in recent years. Milito had a fine campain but showed little of the spark or magic that Messi and Ronaldo did during the seasons they won the award. This makes it seem all the more likely that the winner of the Ballon d’Or will arrive from the team that impresses the most at the 2010 World Cup.
If Argentina win the World Cup with a decent defensive performance augmented by the tough tackling Walter Samuel, the treble winning Internazionale Milan defender might be in line for the award. Should Brazil triumph, the award might end up with Maicon or Lucio, the Internazionale Milan defensive stalwarts. Just as Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon were chosen number 1 and number 2 best players in the world after 2006, the best player in the world in 2010 might just be a defender. Considering the manner in which the UEFA Champions League was won and the way the World Cup has developed throughout the first two weeks, a defender winning the Ballon d’Or would not be a surprise.