The new world beaters #1 Griezmann

For the past 7 years, world football and Ballon D’Or awards have been dominated by, well, you know who. But, as the Messi and Ronaldo era begins to draw to a close, it is time for a new crop of outstanding talents to take the reigns. This series will be analysing the potential new world beaters, the players who, in four or five years time, could be the real deal.

We will begin with 24 year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann started his career at Spanish side Real Sociedad in 2009 after spending 4 years in their youth academy, and immediately became a regular starter in the left wing position. In his first professional season, he scored 6 goals in 40 appearances including a goal against Huesca in his first start. His performances helped Real Sociedad gain promotion to Spain’s top division in 2010.

The following season in the top flight, having turned down interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Lyon, Griezmann, now under a contract until 2015, had another good season in which he scored 7 goals in in 39 games. This was when people first started to take notice of the young talent, as he displayed skill, ability, and from a young age, he was scoring quite a few goals.

After three more impressive years for the Basque team which included the goal that secured qualification for the Champions League and a stunning overhead kick against the club he supports Lyon, Griezmann attracted interest from Atletico Madrid, who were willing to pay the 30million euro release clause in his contract. It was then that he decided that it was time to move onto a bigger club and challenge for silverware, as Atletico had just beaten all the odds and won La Liga and become just seconds away from winning the Champions League.

In his first season with Atletico,  Griezmann delighted the Madrid faithful with 25 goals in 54 games along with some dazzling performances, and after the recent success of forwards Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa at the club, it looked to be that he was overshadowing fellow attackers Fernando Torres and Mario Mandzukic and becoming a real star.

This season Griezmann has continued his rich vein of form, and it’s looking like this so called ‘form’ is more likely to be permanent class. With this summer’s Euro 2016 in his home country of France, he will have the chance to produce his magic on an even bigger stage and show the world what he is capable of.

However, it could be possible that if he, ironically, performs TOO well in this summer’s tournament, he could be snapped up by local rivals Real Madrid, as club president Florentino Perez seems to have a habit of spending record fees on ‘the next big thing’. Surely, looking at the history if these types of players moving to Real, it would be a huge gamble, as it seems that Real Madrid at times look like an unbalanced team of superstars that put the manager under pressure to play them all and therefore not play his favoured system, and therefore, at times, it has cost Real trophies. Of course, some of these signings have been successful, like Ronaldo and James, but meanwhile, some of them, not so successful, like Kaka or depending on opinion, Gareth Bale. If he does decide to go there, Griezmann will hope to be in the bracket of  the former, rather than the latter.

Some suggestions have been made that a move to the Premier League could be on, and the most likely club for that would be Arsenal, with there lack of firepower up front. The move could be increasingly likely if Arsenal win the league this season, but it still doesn’t seem all that likely that move could be on.

What does seem to be a possibility would be a move to his home country, and PSG or Lyon would be candidates, PSG because they want to become a major force in world football and conquer Europe, Lyon because they want to shift PSG off their throne in domestic French football, and also because Lyon is the team that he supports.

So, Antoine Griezmann. 24 years young, a bright talent with a bright future – but we will see if success beckons.

Ballon D’Or 2015 Preview

Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar. These are the three names that have been shortlisted for this year’s Ballon D’Or award, all hoping to be crowned World Player of the Year 2015. Ronaldo is the current holder, Messi the favourite, but don’t rule out the samba skills of Neymar.

Beginning with Ronaldo, it is fair to say that the Portuguese superstar has not hit the heights of his sensational year in 2014, as 55 goals and 17 assists for club and country this year is obviously very poor. On a more serious note, he failed to pick up any trophies this year (other than La Liga top scorer) after the Champions League, Copa del Rey, World Clubs Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2014, and he’s seemed to struggle so far this season (despite 3 goals against Shaktar Donetsk, 4 goals against Malmo and 5 goals against Espanyol). Obviously, he is still Ronaldo, which means not only did he manage 5 goals against Espanyol, but also against Granada at the end of last season, but although he appears to be past his peak, Ronaldo seems to refuse to convert to a more authentic No.9 role where he could become a poacher. So, a good year, but perhaps not a Ballon D’Or winning year.

Moving onto Messi, what else is there to say? The little Argentine played an instrumental role as Luis Enrique’s Barcelona emulated the 2009 team of Pep Guardiola and won the League, Cup and Champions League all in one season, he guided Argentina to the final of the Copa America, and all the way through delighted us with incredible free kicks, solo goals, and assists. Also, even though Messi scored 51 goals despite an 8 week injury in 2015, it isn’t just his scoring that makes him favourite to scoop up the prestigious golden ball for a fifth time. Firstly, he provided 26 assists, with 18 of them coming in the league, meaning he topped the assists chart for La Liga last season. Also, it was his link with team-mates Luis Suarez and Neymar that enthralled the world of football, as it seemed as if the trio had some sort of telepathic link, which allowed them to score goal after goal last season, and they weren’t just average goals, but usually absolutely outstanding ones, and Messi was at the heart of it all. His most notable moments of the year would be his insane solo goal in the Copa Del Rey final and his bamboozling goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.

The final genius to be shortlisted for the award is the 23 year old Brazilian superstar that is Neymar, and he isn’t just there to make up the numbers. Scoring in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final, the trickster stepped up to the mark whilst the inspirational Messi suffered a cruciate ligament injury in September. With the trio broken up, Neymar and Luis Suarez formed their own mini double act to save Barca, and let Messi make his return with the Azulgranas three points clear at the top of the table. Like Messi, Neymar has produced moments of jaw-dropping magic that have left the world in awe, and his superb year could lead to his crowning.

Finally, looking at the people who have missed out on the final three, names include James, unsung hero Ivan Rakitic, and the brilliant Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan Suarez is the most high profile name left out, as his stunning finishing, superb awareness and overall brilliantness, along with the fact that he won the treble with Barcelona means that, surely he could have been on the shortlist rather than Ronlado or Neymar.

Anyway, put January 11th in your diary – will Ronaldo equal Messi’s four Ballon D’Ors, will Messi get his fifth, or will Neymar be the first person other than Messi or Ronaldo to win it since Kaka in 2007?