Poor wee Lionel Messi. As if dealing with the defeat in the World Cup final wasn’t bad enough he then had to put on a brave face as he picked up the (Adidas-sponsored) Golden Ball for player of the Tournament despite the fact the he and the rest of the world knew that he didn’t really deserve it.
He can take comfort in the fact that the bookies think he’s still the best player in the world and have him favourite to win the 2014/15 FIFA Ballon D’or. The little Argentinian is best priced at 5/2 (888 Sport) to pip Cristiano Ronaldo to the accolade.
Since 2008 it’s been a straight fight between the two with Messi winning it four times and Ronaldo twice. Ronaldo is the current holder and despite a disappointing World Cup is 3/1 (BetVictor) to retain the title. Few could argue that he deserved it last season. He sparkled for Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League as well as almost single-handedly guiding Portugal to the World Cup.
If history tells us anything it’s that these two will be in the running for the trophy in the season ahead.
Next in the betting is Messi’s teammate, Neymar. The Brazilian is currently injured and has failed to make the impact on Barcelona that his reported €86.2m transfer fee would demand. He’ll need to return from injury and show better form than last year to prize the erm… prize away from the two front-runners. I’m not having the 3/1 BetVictor have to offer however I do think the 10/1 at 888 Sport is a bit more realistic.
Others in contention based on the betting are Thomas Muller, who is 10/1 at BetVictor – but he’s not a get you on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of player so can be ruled out. At 16/1 (BetVictor) it’s Arjen Robben, who at 30 hasn’t too many years left at the top of his game. He showed glimpses of real quality in Brazil and could be a nice each-way option (if available) assuming Bayern will continue to dominate in Germany and have a say in the destination of the Champions League.
His teammates Neuer and Lahm are priced up at 20/1 and 33/1 respectively but a goalkeeper hasn’t won since Lev Yashin in 1963, and Fabio Cannavaro is on the only recognised defender to win it in recent years.
Columbia’s James Rodriguez is available at 25/1 but until his future destination is decided there’s no reason to part with your money on him.
Which leaves us with one more serious contender. As the title suggests we think Gareth Bale can light up La Liga this season and at 33/1 (BetVictor) looks too big to ignore. The Welshman’s first season at the Bernabeu got off to a slow start thanks to injuries, leading to him playing just five full matches in Madrid’s opening 16 fixtures. Thereafter he didn’t look back and ended the season with 22 goals, notably the Winner in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and a crucial second in extra-time in the Champions League Final.
He’s looked every inch the star his transfer fee suggested and at 24 is about to hit his prime. He’s earned the trust of manager Ancelotti and appears to be a great foil for Ronaldo so is likely to feature heavily for Madrid next season. His meteoric rise seems set to continue and certainly has the potential and attitude to make it right to the very top of the game.
We don’t think he’ll be far away when the shortlist is announced and at 33/1 will be sure to give us a run for our money in the season ahead.
Honourable mentions in the betting go to Frank Ribery who is a huge 100/1 at 888 Sport despite finished third for the award last season. New Barcelona signing Luis Suarez is 50/1. He’s often quoted as being just behind Messi and Ronaldo as one of the best players in the world but remember his season won’t start until long after everyone else’s thanks to his worldwide football ban.
As for the EPL, the shortest priced contender is Diego Costa. The new Chelsea striker is 40/1 (888 Sport) but if his World Cup performance if anything to by you could add another zero on the end of those odds for a more realistic price.
Selectabet’s Value Bet
Gareth Bale to win Ballon d’Or 33/1 (BetVictor)