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Remembering Lionel Messi’s controversial 2010 Ballon d’Or victory

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The sight of Lionel Messi holding the Ballon d’Or trophy in the air is quite common these days.

The Barcelona man has won the award six times, more than anyone in history, and there’s a good chance he’ll add to that tally before he finally hangs up his boots. After all, he’s pretty good at football.

Most of his victories are unquestionable. He’s one of the greatest in the history of the sport, but one of his Ballon d’Or triumphs stood out like a sore thumb, and that was in 2010.

Lionel messi
It was Messi’s second consecutive victory | Michael Steele / Getty Images

It was Messi’s second Ballon d’Or, and it’s not like he didn’t deserve it. He scored 60 goals in all competitions for club and country in 2010, leading Barcelona to La Liga and Spanish Super Cup success. Decent.

But there were two players who deserved it more. World Cup winner Andres Iniesta was a favorite with many fans, but Inter playmaker Wesley Sneijder was as close to a sure thing as you are likely to find.

Now, to be more deserving of individual success than a player who has scored 60 goals in all competitions would take work, and yet Iniesta and Sneijder both had strong arguments as to why they should have been the ones to lift the ball. price.

Andres Iniesta
Iniesta was the hero of the World Cup of Spain | Lars Baron / Getty Images

For Iniesta, his main claim came from the fact that he scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final. It’s a feat that would have usually won you the prize in any other Cup year. around the world, but the lenses have been moved this time around.

However, it was Sneijder who felt the most aggrieved. The Dutchman has had one of the most outstanding individual campaigns we’ve ever seen, and although he didn’t finish 2010 with 60 goals, he did finish it with five trophies and a Cup finalist medal. of the world.

Sneijder was the creative hub at the heart of Jose Mourinho’s Inter team which conquered the world in 2009/10. I Nerazzurri won Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League, and although many cite Diego Milito’s goals as a reason for that, anyone who has watched Inter that year will admit that it was Sneijder who pulled the strings.

On their way to that Champions League victory, Sneijder’s Inter actually knocked out Barcelona, ​​with Sneijder himself scoring a goal and an assist in the 3-1 win at San Siro, which ultimately decided the winner of the semi final.

Wesley sneijder
Sneijder led Inter to European domination | Giuseppe Bellini / Getty Images

You’d think that would be enough to win Sneijder’s prize, but if you need a little more he also scored five goals to lead the Netherlands to the World Cup final, winning the Ballon d competition money.

He lost to Uruguayan Diego Forlan, who perfected his ability to break the laws of physics by bagging screamer after screamer with the Jabulani ball who is infamous among goalkeepers. Forlan was superhuman that summer, and Sneijder was the only man who could hold him a candle.

Sneijder’s success was appreciated by journalists invited to vote for the 2010 Ballon d’Or. He scored 293 points in this section of the votes, enough to place him at the top of the list ahead of Iniesta (226), Xavi (229) and Messi (175).

Wesley sneijder
Sneijder would have won under previous rules | Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

In any year before 2010 this would have meant that Sneijder won the award, but it was a special occasion as it was the first year in which the Ballon d’Or was picked up by FIFA. , which invited players and managers to participate as well. .

What started as recognition of accomplishment quickly turned into a glorified popularity contest, with most new voters deciding that Messi, who was arguably the best player on the planet at the time, deserved the award before Sneijder.

Sure, Sneijder didn’t have the kind of otherworldly class that Messi had back then, but that’s not the point. The award was meant to honor the man who enjoyed the best of 2010, and in the end, he didn’t.

Argentina striker from Barcelona Lionel M
Messi ran away with the prize at the end | FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / Getty Images

To make matters worse, Sneijder was not even in the top three. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi stepped onto the podium, leaving the Dutchman without any form of recognition.

Most of the frustrations were not with Messi winning the award, but rather Sneijder not. The FIFA system had cost him his chance at immortality, and 2010 is remembered as the year Sneijder was robbed.

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