A penny for Wayne Rooney’s thoughts, as he watched (yet again) the Ballon D’Or ceremony from the comfort of his luxurious Cheshire home earlier last week. For Wayne, the saddest part of last week’s ceremony was not the fact that he (yet again) failed to win the coveted prize but that Jimmy Nesbitt – our host for the evening – has a better hair transplant surgeon that he does! And to add insult to Wayne’s long list of injuries this season, I bet it didn’t cost Jimmy £300,000. It was indeed a miraculous transformation.
A few days earlier Nesbitt made a guest appearance on a popular British chat show sporting his usual look of greying hair and receding hair line. In Zurich, before our eyes, Jimmy’s makeover came complete with a jet black mane atop of his temple that any virile, hormonal teenager would have been proud.
The fact that an actor from Northern Ireland (with a new hairstyle) was given the job of co-hosting only seemed to accentuate the strangeness of this year’s event. It was a FIFA event in name only. None of the usual FIFA protagonists attended – Sepp “I am still FIFA President” Blatter and Jerome Valcke may have, ahem, misplaced their invitations. As a result, the audience both watching and in attendance may have felt a little uncomfortable as if though something was not quite right.
But fear not, as overtly rich footballers with nonsensical fashion sense turned up in their droves, in garish garb to put all our minds at ease. Paul Pogba’s golden floral ensemble was a particular favourite of mine this year.
The most unsurprising element of the evening came with the announcement of Lionel Messi as the best footballer in the world for 2015. In truth we’ve known this fact for some time. Not even the undoubted wizardry of Ronaldo or Neymar can dispute his genius. With his quintuplet of wins in the Ballon D’Or he is without equal, underlining his greatness and re-emphasising his claim to be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen.
Anyone who was privileged to watch Messi in the first half of 2015 will attest to his greatness. One particular moment stands out of course; his wonder goal in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich. Lest we forget, Bayern are no slouches boding a number of World Cup winners in their ranks. Yet they were made to look like schoolboys by the Argentine’s brilliance. With a swift shimmy and side-step he left a hapless Jerome Boateng on his backside before deftly dinking the ball over a seated Manuel Neuer. As Messi wheeled away in celebration the Bayern defenders looked like novice ice-skater floundering on an ice rink.
This year’s award is a personal triumph for Messi himself. He has regained his rightful crown as the world’s best footballer having lost the title to Ronaldo in 2012. He has experienced, by his own standards, a chastening time following Argentina’s loss in the World Cup final and come out bigger, brighter and better on the other side.
While his performance against Munich may be the performance that springs most easily to mind when we think of a vintage Messi in 2015, his performances throughout the first half of 2015 were simply mesmeric. In a team of absolute superstars he is the beacon that shines brightest, the essential cog in that silk Catalonian machine. It’s his all-round game that marks him out as the best – his passing, his dribbling, his speed, his control in tight situations and his unnerving ability to flummox the most experienced defenders.
This year and indeed in many other years he is simply without equal. Messi will be 29 in June and although it may not seem so at the minute, he is immortal. As such, we should kneel at the altar of his brilliance whilst we still can. But what about Jimmy’s hair?
By Padraic Ward