Van Persie a man out of time as Messi wins again

Posted by Mark Payne

Matthew Peters/Getty Images Robin van Persie had a 2012 that might have won a Ballon d'Or in previous years.

Despite the ridiculous suit in which he collected the award, nobody could fault the decision. Leo Messi has been named the best player in the world for the fourth year running. In 2012, Messi broke Gerd Muller's goalscoring record, tore up La Liga every week and set excellence at an even higher benchmark. However, he was not the only player to have a remarkable year.

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Former Manchester United great Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to feel particularly aggrieved. In his recent interview on CNN, Ronaldo came across as a much more humble and personable man than you might expect. He did reveal though, that he was desperate to win this year's Ballon d'Or. After winning La Liga and scoring more than a goal a game since he moved to Real Madrid, he must wonder what else he needs to do.

Andres Iniesta came home with the third highest total of votes and he also registered a year of steady achievement. He is the widely lauded fulcrum of these great Spain and Barcelona teams. Spain won the European Championships and many thought this would be the occasion he was recognised.

One man who made the final shortlist of 23 but didn't register on the podium was Robin van Persie. The Dutchman has a much stronger case than is recognised by the rest of Europe and there are those who feel he should have placed higher in the final voting.

It seems incongruous that there is nobody from the Premier League in the final three at all. In fact, the top ten were all from La Liga. The last player to win the award from England was Ronaldo when he was at Manchester United, but there have been many others there or close in the past. Thierry Henry and David Beckham were often in the final running for the award. Michael Owen even won it in 2001.

In particular, van Persie has been completely lethal all year. Many players struggle when entering a new team, a new club and a new environment. If anything, Manchester United's new striker has improved since his move north. And that is on the back of a career best season last year in which he was named player of the year in England.

Whereas Messi and Barcelona subject their opponents to a footballing heist every week, and Ronaldo flat-track bullies the ball into the back of the net, van Persie is a more flexible type of striker. He scores a variety of types of goals, tap-ins, headers, curlers, one-touch and volleys. He has the full repertoire. And he always scores. When the chips are down, he scores.

The achievements of Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta are not in question. It seems that we are simply witness to a rich era of footballing greats. Perhaps in another time, 2001 for instance, players such as van Persie would have led the way at awards time. Nonetheless, with such an array of stars on show, nobody is complaining.

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