What’s the point of playing a full season before a World Cup?
Nobody recognises it, we might as well not bother.
That’s how the list of finalists for FIFA’s ‘The Best’ awards has made me feel anyway.
The terribly named ceremony is due to take place in London tonight and seeks to celebrate individuals who excelled from the start of the 2017/18 season until the end of the World Cup.
Which would be all well and good, if it weren’t a total farce.
Let’s start with the nominees for the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ award.
Who do you reckon? David De Gea, Jan Oblak, Marc-Andre ter Stegen?
Kasper Schmeichel has made the cut though, by virtue of his penalty saves against Croatia in the World Cup round of 16.
It is not my intention to diminish the Dane’s efforts in Russia, or his performances for Leicester last season.
But he’s not one of the three best keepers in the world at the moment, not even close.
An uncharacteristically unconvincing World Cup campaign seems to have erased memories of De Gea’s superhuman Premier League campaign.
Need a reminder? Here’s some xG prevented stats (provided by OPTA) from last season:
- David De Gea 11.66
- Loris Karius -0.64
- Hugo Lloris -0.93
- Ederson -1.63
- Thibaut Courtois -1.79
- Petr Cech -1.92
For those who don’t understand xG (expected goals), this basically suggests that De Gea stopped Man United conceding between 11-12 goals above what is expected of the average Prem keeper.
As you can see, he’s so far ahead of his ‘top six’ rivals (who all finished below zero), it’s almost an unfair comparison.
The graph also suggests that Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois were actually below average in the league last season.
And yet both are also considered among the three best keepers in the world by FIFA, presumably because of France and Belgium’s World Cup campaigns.
Let’s be honest, how much did Lloris actually contribute to France’s success?
The overriding memories I have of his tournament involve him chewing on a bug and dropping one of the worst clangers in World Cup final history.
De Gea, Oblak and Ter Stegen were all considerably better over the whole judging period.
You could say the same for Alisson, Ederson, Keylor Navas, and probably a few more.
It’s impossible to escape the feeling the finalists were determined by someone with a short memory, who didn’t watch that many games last season.
Right, onto the coaching awards…
Pep Guardiola became the first manager in the history of English football to guide his team to a century of points.
Man City won the title with such swagger there were widespread discussions about whether they were the best champions ever.
However, FIFA don’t believe Guardiola is worthy of a nomination for ‘Best Men’s Coach’.
Both World Cup finalists are up for the award (have you spotted the pattern yet?) as well as former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
Ask yourself, who would you rather have as manager of your team.
Zlatko Dalic, Dider Deschamps, Zidane, or Guardiola?
To me, it’s a no-brainer.
Then there’s Emma Hayes’ omission.
The Chelsea Ladies manager masterminded an invincible domestic season which saw her lift the league title and the Women’s FA Cup to complete an emphatic double.
The Blues also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, playing some truly entertaining football en route.
All the while, Hayes was pregnant with twins.
She sadly lost one to a stillbirth, something she claimed she felt happen while watching on from the sidelines in her third trimester.
For tactical mastery, motivation, and bravery, she is unmatched in the women’s game.
The fact she is not nominated for FIFA’s ‘Best Women’s Coach’ award is nothing short of disgusting.
Finally, we reach the ‘Best Men’s Player’ award, the big one.
One of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah will be named as the world’s best player.
I don’t even need to explain why Lionel Messi should be nominated.
Those that know need not to be converted, and those that don’t are blinded by toxic bias and are unlikely to change their ways.
The European Golden Shoe holder’s omission is more evidence of the grossly unfair weighting towards the World Cup.
The fact Messi finished as top scorer and top assist-provider in La Liga as Barcelona came ever so close to an unbeaten domestic season seems to have been swiftly discarded by far too many.
His brilliance has become boringly repetitive to some… how sad.
Chances are, Ronaldo will win it.
I have no issues with that, there’s certainly enough justification for the Portuguese forward picking up another individual gong.
He would be a worthy winner, of course.
But if I was him I’d be extremely annoyed with FIFA.
The laughable nominees lists across the board will somewhat tarnish what should be a distinguished honour.
My sincere congratulations to all the eventual winners.
It’s important to remember that none of the players/coaches are to blame for their nomination.
But FIFA need to consider their true objective.
Because this year, so many of the best have been overlooked.
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