Let’s face it: Lionel Messi didn’t deserve the Golden Ball.
While he did help his team with some magic moments to lead Argentina to the final, he was largely invisible in the entire knockout phase.
Even in the group stages, he was marked out of most games.
When Messi was announced as the Golden Ball winner as the World Cup’s MVP, even Sepp Blatter was surprised. If the corrupt head of corrupt FIFA doesn’t want to reward one of the world’s most marketable players, that’s saying something.
So, after a couple of days to let the dust settle, here’s my Starting XI of players that probably deserved the Golden Ball more than Messi.
GK – Manuel Neuer, GER
This generations top sweeper-keeper was Golden Gloves winner of the tournament, edging out Keylor Navas – who was outstanding for Costa Rica.
DEF – Jerome Boateng, GER
The best defender from the champions was a name that wasn’t called on very often. Why? Because he didn’t make any mistakes, even when starting the tournament as a right back.
DEF – Ezequiel Garay, ARG
Part of one of the best defences in Brazil, Garay was the man who put out the most fires for Argentina.
DEF – Ron Vlaar, NED
Has an Aston Villa player ever had as good of a World Cup as Vlaar? Probably not as the Dutchman was outstanding in leading the Oranje’s back three.
DEF/MF – Philipp Lahm, GER
Only above-average as a defensive midfielder to start the World Cup, it was his move to right back that helped the Germans really hit their stride.
MF – Toni Kroos, GER
In a midfield full of talent, Kroos looked like the best all-around players and was the most dangerous on the ball.
MF – Javier Mascherano, ARG
Was playing so hard in the semifinals that he literally tore his anus. Was the all-around best player on his team and probably even more important than Messi.
MF – James Rodriguez, COL
Has Colombia made it to the semifinals, there’s no way you couldn’t have given him the Golden Ball. Now it’s just an argument and, really, he should have been the winner.
FWD – Arjen Robben, NED
While his offence is usually what gets him noticed, he was battling hard every minutes and even tracking back on defence, something that he doesn’t do every game for Bayern.
FWD – Thomas Muller, GER
The top scorer on the winning team is always in contention. Muller isn’t the most creative player, but man can he score.
FWD – Neymar, BRA
Before his terrible back injury in the quarterfinals, Neymar was far and away the best Brazilian player and a shining star of the tournament.
And, just for fun, here’s a starting XI of the most disappointing players of the World Cup.
GK – Iker Casillas, ESP
Once among the world’s best keepers, he performance was laughable in Brazil.
DEF – Pepe, POR
His headbutt to Muller in their opener essentially ended both his and his country’s tournament.
DEF – David Luiz, BRA
When you have a central defender playing most of the game past midfield, it’s easy to understand how your team loses 7-1.
DEF – Marcelo, BRA
Let’s just take the “back” part of the Brazilians’ “wingback” designation because defending was the last thing on his mind.
MF – Eden Hazard, BEL
Much like Messi, had a couple of magic moments with some assists, but was largely disappointing.
MF – Michael Bradley, USA
Sure, he covered a lot of ground – the most of any player per game, in fact – but he was supposed to be a focal point on offence and failed in that respect.
MF – Steven Gerrard, ENG
England’s captain had a rough go of it, just like his team. Have to wonder if that was it for his international career.
MF – Mesut Ozil, GER
Was largely invisible for large portions of games, turned the ball over too often and was too timid to shoot most the time.
FWD – Cristiano Ronaldo, POR
You can blame the injury, but a lot more was expected from the supposed world’s best player.
FWD – Wayne Rooney, ENG
He bagged his first ever World Cup goal, but blew several chances before it in that game alone. Also had the worst corner kick in soccer’s history.
FWD – Fred, BRA
When you’re relentlessly booed by your home fans, you know you’re doing something wrong.
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