Next week will be two years to the day that George Best died, after battling against an alcohol addiction for years. He has been hailed as the greatest player ever in the game time and again, and is often the mark any bright prospect at United is measured against. However, his title as the greatest ever is disputed by some, but even Pele, who rivals Best for the accolade, said George was the greatest ever player.
There is much debate over who is the best player in the World at present. Meelan’s Kaka seems to be most people’s favourite, after his storming displays in the Champions League last season. No doubt he took the piss out of us in the semi’s, and scored a whopping 10 goals in the competition, which ain’t too shabby for a midfielder! Our very own Ronaldo, who collected a clean sweep of the individual awards at domestic level, looks to be snubbed for the up and coming Ballon d’Or, with the impressive Brazilian set to steal the plaudits. However, if we look at the two players last season, Ronaldo scored more goals, and had twice the assists of Kaka, when taking in to consideration all club competitions. Kaka collected a pitiful eight goals in thirty one appearances for AC Milan in the league, in a season where they finished fourth and were essentially, just a cup team. Granted, the best Cup going, but still just a cup team, focussing all their energy on the Champions League. The team we battered 7-1 at Old Trafford finished some fourteen points ahead of Milan. Even without the point deduction the club faced for corruption, they would have finished third, twenty eight points behind the Champions, Inter. In contrast, Manchester United lead the table from the start of the season, with Ronaldo scoring crucial goals against several clubs, and racked up two goals in three games for Portugal in their Euro 2008 qualifiers. In total, he scored 25 goals in the 56 matches he played in last season, for club and country, which is phenomenal for a winger, and managed 20 assists for United.
Now of course, the Champions League attracts more attention from Europe than the Premier League, and therefore it is not much of a surprise that Kaka is receiving all the attention at the moment. Turning up for a handful of games in the Champions League, (and by turning up, I mean playing exceptional football!) appears to be worth more than showing up week in week out in your own league. Ronaldo had the highest number of assists in the league last season (13) and was the third highest scorer (17), behind two out and out strikers who both had great seasons. He made the difference between United losing and winning on so many occasions, and essentially, contributed invaluably to winning the title, and our most successful year since 1999.
Now, just as in the past Pele has added weight to our argument that George Best was the greatest ever, Kaka has provided Ronaldo with a great shout for the best player currently in Europe. “He is the best,” said Kaka, of Ronaldo. “Not only for his technical ability, but also for what he has done with Portugal.” Whilst Chelsea’s Drogba is tipping himself for the award, it is great to see the modesty of Kaka, as well as hearing the praise for our player.
The Ballon d’Or winner is due to be announced within the next few weeks, but I won’t be getting my hopes up over a Ronaldo win. A United player hasn’t been crowned the best in Europe since George Best in 1968 (with Denis Law and Bobby Charlton winning it before him), which is ridiculous considering the talent we’ve had since then. Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Ryan Giggs, to name the first few players who spring to mind, haven’t even been in the running. Dwight Yorke scored 30 goals for us in the Treble winning season, but rolled in at 11th place that year. Andy Cole, who made up the other half of the highest scoring partnership in Europe that season, managed a 26th place finish. The closest United players have come to scooping the award since Best are Cantona, who was voted third in 1993 (behind Dennis Bergkamp and Roberto Baggio) and Beckham, who was voted second in 1999 (behind Rivaldo). The Italian League has seen seventeen winners, the Spanish league has seen twelve winners, and the German league has seen nine. The English league boasts only five winners. The figures don’t bode well for Ronaldo.
Regardless, it is nice to see our young winger be recognised and praised so highly by the player the World of football is currently ranting and raving about. Whoever the winner, there is no doubt in my mind that Cristiano Ronaldo contributed more heavily to the success of his club and country than any player in Europe last season, and I wouldn’t dream of swapping him for Kaka, or Messi, or anyone else. So here’s to Ronaldo, our player of the year!