Messi wins Golden Ball award after losing final… but here are FIVE players who could have won it instead

The decision to award the Golden Ball for the 2014 World Cup’s best player to Argentina forward Lionel Messi has been greeted with surprise in many quarters.

Messi performed well in the group stages, scoring four goals in three games against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria but his star has faded since, with the Barcelona attacker failing to find the net in knockout matches against Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

In the final against Germany, Messi flashed one guilt-edged opportunity wide but otherwise struggled to influence proceedings.

Nonetheless, after the final whistle, he was presented with the adidas Golden Ball, ahead of other leading contenders such as Colombia’s James Rodriguez, Holland’s Arjen Robben and German trio Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller.

It has led the conspiracy theorists to suggest that Messi, an ambassador for Adidas, may have been granted preferential treatment, although it should be noted that the German firm also have links with Monaco star Rodriguez and they manufacture Germany kits.

Further speculation was triggered when it emerged that for the first time the Golden Ball was decided by FIFA’s Technical Committee, rather than by a media vote.

The general consensus, however, remains that Messi was a little fortunate to receive the award and that his name and reputation may have earned him the prize.


James Rodriguez (Columbia) Despite playing just five games at the tournament, the Monaco forward scored six times and picked up the Golden Boot award.

Thomas Muller (Germany) Again a standout at a major tournament, he found the net on five occasions and was a constant threat for the eventual winners.

Javier Mascherano (Argentina) Different class in the middle of midfield as he took each game, particularly in the knockout stages, by the scruff of the neck and roared the South Americans on. Completed the most tackles of anyone at the World Cup.

Manuel Neuer (Germany) Hugo Lloris, beware. This man is the very definition of a sweeper-keeper. Barely put a foot wrong all tournament with a string of top saves and bossed his area like no other.

Arjen Robben (Holland) Although there were simulation antics, Robben’s poise in possession and potency in front of goal were deciding factors in Louis van Gaal’s team finishing third.

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