For the first time in many years, the race for the Ballon D’Or – FIFA’s World Player of the Year award – has not been a foregone conclusion. Of course, the final three nominees Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manuel Neuer have had great years, but so have many others. Phillip Lahm, Thomas Muller and Bastien Schweinsteiger led Germany to World Cup glory, whilst Arjen Robben, Gareth Bale and Neymar all had excellent seasons for their clubs.
This blog will concentrate on 3 others who could all claim to be the best of the rest in 2014. We will be looking at Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Angel Di Maria to decide who could be honoured with the Ballon d’Argent or ‘Silver Ball’.
Angel Di Maria has been renowned as the assist king of 2014 and with good reason. In the 2013/14 season for Madrid, he created 17 goals, whilst already this season in a struggling Manchester United team, he has created 6 goals. Over the year, he has created on average 2.8 goalscoring chances a game, which equates to 33.1% of his team’s chances. This is almost double the average for a player in his position. When we compare this to Zlatan and Suarez, he blows them out of the water. Zlatan creates just 22.3% of his team’s chances, whilst Suarez creates a respectable 29.2% of his team’s chances.
One potential explanation for this is that the players have different jobs in their team. Zlatan and Suarez are paid to get on the end of the chances and put them away, rather than create the chances for others. The stats do back this up, showing that both Luis Suarez and Zlatan average over 4 shots a game, whilst Di Maria averages only just over 3 shots per game. Despite averaging fewer shots per game than his counterparts, Di Maria still manages to average 31% of his team’s shots.
One thing all these players have in common is they are considered to be entertainers. They are players you expect something out of the ordinary from; a mazy dribble or a dazzling piece of skill. But which player is the best when it comes to beating his man and advancing his teams chance of scoring? Once again, Di Maria comes out on top. On average, he completes 12.9 dribbles a game, with 44.6% of those dribbles improving his team’s chances of scoring. Similarly, Suarez performs 12.3 dribbles per game but with only 34.9% of them helping his team. Meanwhile Zlatan attempts 9 dribbles per game with just 33.6% proving successful.
The stats seem to suggest that it is Angel Di Maria who can consider himself unluckiest not to be on the list for the Ballon d’Or. He has had a statistically superb last 12 months and compares favourably with some of the world’s best players. Join us over the coming weeks when we will ask the stats who should win the big one? The 59th Ballon d’Or.