Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Awards and Surprises in European Soccer

Natalie Schorr

The Ballon d’Or Debate

This past week, the most valued and prestigious individual awards in world football, the Ballon d’Or and Ballon d’Or Féminin, were awarded to Argentinian forward Lionel Messi and Spanish midfielder Aitana Bonmatí respectively. The occasion marked the eighth Ballon d’Or for Messi and the first for Bonmatí. 

Given his popularity and dominance over the past decade, the football media landscape has been focused on Messi. However, not everyone is on the same page as to whether Messi deserved the recognition.

Liam Snow, a fourth-year social work major and lifelong Liverpool fan, has found the controversy over Messi beating out the likes of Norwegian striker Erling Haaland and French forward Kylian Mbappé to be quite entertaining. 

“I think Messi totally deserved the award, he was the best player on the best team in the biggest competition,” Snow said, referring to the World Cup—which Messi won for the first time in his career for Argentina. “It’s been really funny to watch other fans cry about it though, saying it’s rigged, or just a popularity contest.”

In World Cup years, the weight in which the competition has on Ballon d’Or voting is major, but understandably so according to Snow. Gavin Juliver, a fourth-year biochemistry major and Tommy Ray, a fourth-year mathematics major, both Manchester United fans, had similar perspectives. They felt that Messi deserved the award, even if for an eighth time, but also understood the frustration surrounding the decision. 

“People saying stuff like, ‘Oh, the award is ruined, it isn’t what it once was…’ but I don’t know what good old days they are referring to,” Ray noted, citing the fact that the first non-European player to ever win the award was George Weah in 1995.

Nevertheless, the fact that Italian midfielder Jorginho finished third in Ballon d’Or voting in 2021, after winning the Champions League with Chelsea and the European Championship with Italy, was enough to show Ray the award is not just about stats and individual quality.

“Jorginho is a class player, but if [The Union of European Football Associations] are saying they can’t name three better players than Jorginho in 2021, then they’re wrong,” Ray joked. 

Haaland, the player who came in second place in this year’s voting, had a legendary career’s worth of success in one year. Haaland broke the Premier League single season goal scoring record and won the Treble—the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the Champions League with Manchester City. 

This is what many fans cite as the problem with the Ballon d’Or, weighing team strength against individual accomplishment. Haaland’s home country, Norway, did not even qualify for the World Cup as the 23-year-old never got a chance to perform on that stage. Both Messi’s Argentina and Bonmati’s Spain won the respective men’s and women’s competitions.

The Premier League

Just under a third of the way through the season, the Premier League has been filled with exciting and surprising results. Currently sitting second in the table, behind Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur is one of the most compelling stories.

“They are playing electric football,” Snow said, referencing the dynamic playing style new manager Ange Postecoglou has his side playing. Even in Tottenham’s first loss of the season, Nov. 6 against Chelsea, 1-4, they showed that electricity. In this match, Spurs went down to 10 then nine men, after Christian Romero and Destiny Udogie both received red cards, but continued to play an impressively high line—never giving up on the game. 

Opposite Tottenham’s success, one of the biggest disappointments among the league’s powerhouses has been Manchester United. Eighth in the league table, the Manchester United gaffer, Erik ten Hag, is on the hot seat. 

“United have the ability to turn good players into ‘Dog-Water,’ just look at [André] Onana, [Mason] Mount, even [Ángel] Di Maria a few years ago,” Snow said. 

Even United fans Juliver and Ray noted the team’s ability to have players come in with huge potential, then flop once they reach Manchester United. 

“I’m really disappointed, I thought ten Hag would have a better grip on the players and the philosophy of football they want to play with,” Juliver said. 

With much at stake, the top of the Premier League table could see major changes in the coming weeks.

Bundesliga: Kane Excels, Bayern Struggles

Former Tottenham striker Harry Kane left North London in search of silverware and joined German powerhouse Bayern Munich, who currently sit second place in the league table, behind league leaders Bayer Leverkusen. Kane’s 15 goals in 10 games lead the league, but his trophy winning woes seem to have followed him. Bayern faced a catastrophic fallout in the German cup, losing to third division side, Saarbrücken, Nov 1.

La Liga: Girona Surprises

In Spain, Englishman Jude Bellingham has been both scoring goals and dominating the midfield for second place Real Madrid. Surprise league leaders, Girona, have a 14,000 capacity stadium, tiny budget (55 million euros last season) and even smaller trophy cabinet. However, with connections to the City Football Group, their success is part of a larger network of football dominance. 

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Natalie Schorr, Digital Media Producer

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