CBC Sports Online's soccer expert, John Molinaro, takes you inside the world of soccer and offers his insights about the action on the pitch and in the front office.
Cannavaro deserves the Ballon d’Or
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | 10:29 AM ET
Fabio Cannavaro’s coronation as the European player of the year Monday met with a fair bit of criticism, especially in French soccer circles.
As captain of Italy, Cannavaro led the Azzurri to their first World Cup title in 24 years, but according to French national team coach Raymond Domenech, the Italian defender did not deserve to win the Ballon d’Or.
"Fabio Cannavaro is a good player ... but he's not the Ballon d'Or. Thierry Henry was much more decisive throughout the season. I don't understand it,” Domenech answered when asked for his opinion on Canal Plus television
Lyon coach Gerard Houllier went one step further, declaring the decision to give Cannavaro the Ballon d’Or “a scandal.”
“The thing that bothers me most is that Thierry Henry, a player who has been scoring 20 goals a season for years now and appeared in two finals in the last season, was not even taken into consideration, there was a negative campaign around him," said Houllier.
Frenchman Arsene Wenger, Henry’s manager at Arsenal, echoed Houllier’s sentiments, stating Henry should have won because he was the top scorer in the Premiership last season.
Henry, who finished third in this year’s balloting, would have been a worthy winner, but not as worthy as Cannavaro. To hear Domenech, Houllier and Wenger talk, you’d think the fact that the French striker has yet to win the Ballon d’Or is some sort of crime.
The greater crime is that Cannavaro is just the third defender to win the award – after Germans Franz Beckenbauer (1972, 1976) and Matthias Sammer (1996) – since the Ballon d’Or was first handed out in 1956.
If we accept Wenger’s argument (that the award should go to a top goal scorer) then certainly Fiorentina’s Luca Toni deserved to win ahead of Henry. While Henry bagged 27 goals to finish atop the goal scoring chart in England, Toni won the European Golden Shoe award as the top goal scorer in Europe with an incredible 31 goals.
Domenech’s assessment that “Henry was much more decisive throughout the season” is laughable – Cannavaro was just as decisive for Juventus as Henry was for Arsenal - but also ignores the voting patterns of the journalists who select the Ballon d’Or winner.
Voters have selected a player from that year's World Cup winning team four out of the last six times (Ronaldo in 2002, Zidane in 1998, Lothar Matthaus in 1990 and Paolo Rossi in 1982). In the case of Ronaldo and Rossi, they did very little outside of the World Cup to merit winning the award. But during that one month, they were unquestionably the best players on the planet.
Performing at the World Cup, the game’s biggest stage, counts the most, and the Ballon d’Or should reflect that.
Is it unfair that a player the calibre of Henry, the game’s greatest striker and one of the most entertaining players in the world to watch, has yet to win the Ballon d’Or? Absolutely.
But the list of deserving world-class players who never won the award is long: Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Raul, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Moore, Michael Laudrup, to name but a few.
Henry is only 29, and his time will come.
In the meantime, all hail Cannavaro.
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About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBC Sport Online whose chief love is international soccer. John served as senior editor of Sports Online's Euro 2004 website, which helped him win a CBC.ca Award of Excellence, and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College, and is also the author of The Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time (Stewart House, 2002).
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