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Why Lionel Messi Deserved to Win the World Cup's Golden Ball

18/07/2014 12:59 BST | Updated 17/09/2014 10:59 BST

Poor Lionel Messi, he didn't have the best day of his life at the Maracana. His team lost the final in extra time, he failed to produce the moment of magic that many have come to expect from him and then he had to trudge up the stairs to the presentation area to collect the Golden Ball trophy for player of the tournament when he clearly wanted nothing more than to get out of Brazil.

To make matters worse, the decision to give him the prize was immediately panned by just about everyone watching. Twitter was awash with angry fans claiming that the decision was a political one, with some people pointing out that Adidas sponsor both the prize and Messi.

Diego Maradona, usually Messi's biggest supporter, called it "unfair" for him to have been given the award, saying that "the marketing people want him to win something he didn't deserve to win" and it was cruel to make him collect a prize that he clearly didn't want.

Even FIFA President Sepp Blatter confessed that he was "surprised" to see Messi go up to collect the trophy.

But was it really that bad a decision? Germany's Thomas Muller was presented with the Silver Ball trophy as runner up - was he better than Messi in Brazil?

The Argentine magician's win clearly came mostly on the strength of his performances in his side's first four matches, where he notched four vital goals and an assist. After that, his standards began to drop.

This is where Messi is judged more harshly than any other player on the planet. If he doesn't single-handedly win the game for his side, or produce a wonder-goal, he's said to have disappointed. No other player on earth is held to those standards, not even Cristiano Ronaldo.

In Argentina's semi-final against the Netherlands, Messi was far and away the best attacking player on the field. Constantly fighting for - and winning - the ball, he went past Dutch defenders over and over again.

But this game is held up as an example of his low performance - because he didn't score. And it's true, by his standards, that's a poor game. But a poor game for Messi is still better than most people on earth could ever hope for.

Silver Ball winner Muller, by comparison, only scored one goal after the end of the group stage - in Germany's 7-1 win over Brazil. And not to take that away from him, but a blindfolded sparrow could probably have slipped away from David Luiz and tapped one in during that match.

So to say Messi's performance dropped off is true, but so did everybody else's. The same could be applied to third placed Arjen Robben, who didn't even manage an assist after the end of the group stage.

Messi, then, deserved his award over the two men who finished behind him. But what about 'that' man? The Golden Boot winner, James Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was Diego Maradona's choice for the award, but as good as he was, Messi out-performed him too, in terms of what he brought to the team.

In terms of all-round team performance, Colombia were better than Argentina man-for-man. The difference was that when Argentina needed a win (final excepted), Messi delivered.

'Player of the Tournament' shouldn't go to the player who's shown some individual brilliance. It should be awarded to the player who's had the biggest impact on the matches that he's played in, in terms of the results.

Based on that judgement, Messi is the only possible winner. He pulled his side out of the fire on so many occasions. An incredible ball in the 118th minute to put Angel di Maria through against Switzerland. His 90th minute screamer against Iran to win the match. His brace against Nigeria, without which his side would've lost. Without him, Argentina could well have gone out in the first round. With him, they came within minutes of winning the World Cup.

That is why Lionel Messi was the player of the tournament. That is why Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. That is why Lionel Messi deserved the Golden Ball.

Hats off, Lionel. We're privileged to watch football in your era.

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