On Friday, Real Madrid issued a statement condemning Michel Platini after the Uefa president had earlier this week expressed his opinion that a German World Cup-winner, and not Cristiano Ronaldo, should claim the 2014 Ballon d’Or.
Madrid’s statement read: "Firstly, we are surprised at the repeated comments regarding his [Platini’s] personal preferences over the choice of winner of the Ballon d'Or, particularly given that he is the head of European football's principal body, where our understanding is that the strictest impartiality should prevail.
"Secondly, the Ballon d'Or is an individual rather than collective prize which is awarded annually to the best player in the world, and we believe that, in order to maintain its prestige, those who participate in the vote should take into account exclusively the individual professional achievements of the players.
"Finally, we believe that Cristiano Ronaldo has without doubt had his best ever professional year individually and he is deserving of the Ballon d'Or."
The coach of the European champions, Carlo Ancelotti, also hit out at Platini during his pre-match press conference on Friday, insisting it is wrong for the president to voice his opinion on who deserves the award.
So are Madrid right to be unhappy with the former France international star? Two of Goal’s writers go head-to-head on the issue.
|"PLATINI HAS FURTHER DAMAGED BALLON D'OR CREDIBILITY"|
By Okeowo Destiny
Public confidence in the selection process for the Fifa Ballon d’Or has never been lower. Over the last few years there has been clear favouritism towards certain players and clubs – particularly Barcelona who have made up 10 of the last 15 podium places.
It is very difficult for many football fans to take the award seriously given some of the inexplicable omissions in recent times – from Wesley Sneijder in 2010 to Arjen Robben last year.
The underlying feeling is that the Ballon d’Or has become a political prize, which are backed up by the views expressed this week by last year’s bronze medallist Franck Ribery.
"I learned a lot during last year's Ballon d'Or gala. As soon as I got there, I told my wife that I would lose," he told Sportmasta.
"There is a lot of politics. I saw how Sepp Blatter was hugging Ronaldo and how his entire family was there. I'm not stupid. It was clear that he had to win it. He wouldn't have brought his entire family with him otherwise.”
This latest storm is not really about Ronaldo or Madrid, it is about ethics. While the Ballon d’Or is a Fifa award, someone with as much political influence as the president of Uefa should not be publicly revealing his personal favourite. The head of any governing body must be 100 per cent neutral at all times.
Could you imagine the uproar if the chairman of the Football Association stated that he wanted Manchester United to win the Premier League? It would bring the English game into disrepute.
Just as it did the Italian game in 2009 when then Italy coach Marcello Lippi tipped Juventus to win the Scudetto. "A man with great institutional responsibility should not take sides," slammed then Inter boss Jose Mourinho.
And he was right. Platini has scored a spectacular own goal and only provided more fuel for the critics of the Ballon d’Or, as well as those of Uefa and Fifa.
Follow DestinyOkeowo on
|"MADRID ARE PLAYING THEIR OWN POLITICAL GAMES"|
By Okeowo Destiny
Real Madrid are making a mountain out of a molehill. There is no agenda - Michel Platini was simply expressing a harmless personal opinion which will have no bearing whatsoever on the final vote.
Just because he is president of Uefa, why should he keep quiet? We live in a world where freedom of speech is one of the greatest gifts to man and it is surely better anyway that public figures are open and transparent with their views - especially given the mistrust in Uefa and Fifa today.
Last year, Sepp Blatter was disrespectful towards Ronaldo when he described him as a "commander" who likes to go to the hairdresser, but Platini's comments don't even mention Ronaldo or Madrid - nor do they discredit the award itself.
Platini was merely highlighting the importance of the World Cup and how it should weigh heavily in the outcome of the Ballon d’Or vote. He said the same four years ago - and his words had no impact as Lionel Messi took the prize.
Strangely enough, nobody at Madrid felt compelled to complain in 2010 when Platini stated that a Spanish player should win the award. Was it because Iker Casillas was a contender that year?
Madrid are simply using Platini's words as leverage to promote and placate a player who can sulk and strop when he doesn't get his own way. Before Brazil 2014, Ronaldo appeared to be the only candidate to win the Ballon d’Or. Germany’s World Cup win and Lionel Messi’s recent scoring spree have changed the landscape, though.
It is no longer a foregone conclusion that Ronaldo will emerge victorious on January 12 – so Madrid have gone into public relations overdrive. Last year they had every reason to be upset with Blatter. This time, however, they are just playing their own politics.