The Ballon d’Or has caused some controversy in recent years with glaring omissions from shortlists and teams of the year, as well as some bizarre voting patterns and preferential treatment by coaches or players involved in the voting process. So, to try and bring some credibility back to football’s individual honours, we have created The Blog d’Or, where the writers of The Blog FC have whittled down a 50-man longlist to countdown the real best 23 players of the calendar year. The countdown continues here.
The Blog d’Or #12
The best players come up big when their team needs them, and few came up bigger in 2014 than Atletico Madrid and Uruguay’s Diego Godin.
He scored the equaliser against Barcelona to win a historic league title.
He opened the scoring in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
He netted in the World Cup to send Uruguay through to the knockout stage with a late winner against Italy.
And yet, scoring is not his primary role.
I wrote last year that defenders don’t win awards as their performances are understated, and sometimes reputation seems to count for more than actual performances. Godin appears to have fallen victim to these prejudices, shockingly omitted from the 23-man FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist and bizarrely missing from the FIFPro Team of the Year – with David Luiz instead preferred at centre-back.
“If a majority of current players believe David Luiz is a better player than Diego Godin then they clearly have all been using their expensive, multi-faceted televisions for anything but watching football,” wrote Goal.com’s Kris Voakes.
“It was an embarrassing oversight.”
The inclusion of Luiz, who was a part of the 7-1 mauling Brazil suffered at the hands of Germany, perhaps demonstrates the lack of great centre-backs in the game today. Thiago Silva is lauded as the best in the world, but even his form over the last 18 months has been far from immaculate. The likes of Nesta, Cannavaro, Puyol, Stam and Hyypia have retired, and this generation – while producing incredible attacking talents – has been lagging on the defensive side of things. Godin is one player who bucks this trend, however, with an ability to read the game almost unparalleled combined with bravery, concentration, intelligence and an inspiring influence over his teammates. His role in Atletico Madrid’s incredible success cannot be understated.
“Godin is one of the club’s most important players,” said manager Diego Simeone, following alleged interest from some of Europe’s other heavyweights.
“I’d never let him leave. He’s improved notably in every possible respect; on the pitch, as a leader, and as a person.”
Diego Costa was the “star” at the Vicente Calderon last season, scoring for fun as Atleti defied all logic to challenge Barcelona and Real from start to finish. But injuries towards the end of the season limited his involvement and it was Godin who came to the fore as the leader of Simeone’s Rojiblancos, one of the most organised and disciplined sides since the likes of Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan of the 1990s.
Calm and composed, yet ferocious, tenacious and unforgiving, Godin personifies the team Simeone has assembled. His thundering header was one of his club’s most important goals ever, but in the following 41 minutes he marshaled his troops to ensure that Barcelona failed to breach the Atletico defence as they hung on to claim the La Liga title.
They faced Barcelona six times last season and failed to lose. This season they’ve faced Real Madrid six times and failed to lose. Let that sink in.
Football statistics and analysis website Squawka had him head and shoulders above his Atleti teammates, recording a performance score of 1053 throughout the calendar year in La Liga. The next best was his centre-back partner Miranda with 651. Costa was fourth with 589. Godin also led his team in defensive actions per game (10) as Los Colchoneros boasted the best defence in the league, finishing above Barcelona despite scoring 23 fewer goals.
An old American cliche says that attack (or offense, if we’re speaking American) will win you games, but defence (dee-fense) will win you championships. Without Diego Godin, Atleti may not have even come close.