For the first time ever, ESPN FC is looking to recognize the most influential person in football and we’re looking for our readers to be a part of the process.
Our “2013 belongs to….” award will acknowledge the player or coach who ultimately had the biggest impact this year. A panel of our writers and editors will vote on the award reciptent but here’s where our readers get involved: our readers poll is worth 33 percent of the final vote tally.
In decision that will be split down the line, the fans could be the ultimate tie-breaker and have a huge influence.
Poll: 2013 belongs to?
Here are the candidates for the award:
Gareth Bale: Can a player be underrated when he comes with a 100 million pound price tag? For some reason or another, the towering Welsh winger isn’t mentioned along the same circles as some of the players mentioned above despite putting up very strong stats. Prior to his move to Real Madrid, many wondered if Bale could excel in the very technical La Liga but he’s thrived thus far with seven goals and six assists in eight league appearances. Pair that with his dominance in the Premier League (21 goals and 4 assists in the 2012-2013 season) and you have a world class player.
Jupp Heynckes: After settling for second best in every competition in 2012, Heynckes refused to allow Bayern Munich to suffer the same fate in 2013. When Pep Guardiola was hired midseason to replace the 68-year-old, there was a danger that Bayern would take their foot of the pedal for the rest of the season but the opposite happened under the Heynckes’ helm. Bayern went undefeated in league play and rolled past European giants PSG, Barcelona before defeating rival Dortmund in the Champions League final.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Although not shortlisted for the Ballon D’Or or the World Player of the Year awards, Ibrahimovic’s 2013 was arguably just as good as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery. Which his 2012-2013 season was an average year for the towering Swede, the 2013-2014 season was outerworldly, scoring 32 goals for club and country.
Jurgen Klinsmann: Led the United States to its greatest calendar year of its history with big results against. Italy, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mexico – all of this coming after a controversial article claimed that the former Germany boss had lost his team in Honduras. Now, with a contract extension until 2018, Klinsmann aims to bring the U.S. to new heights — starting with next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Stephen Keshi: Off of the shoulders of a disappointing 2010 World Cup, Nigeria turned to one of their legends to help turn around the program. Keshi came in with a strict approach which initially turned off some of the team’s European based stars but eventually they began to buy in. culiminating in the Super Eagles winning their first African Cup of Nations since 1994 this year. Nigeria also qualified for the World Cup.
Lionel Messi: Even in what would be considered by many to be a “down” year, the Argentine magician poured in 45 goals in 46 appearances for club and country and won another La Liga trophy with Barcelona (his sixth Spanish league win). Injuries appear to be the only thing slowing down Messi but he is still a legitimate contender to win a fifth consecutive Ballon D’Or in January.
Neymar: The Brazilian superstar has had his share of warranted critics over constantly diving but there’s no disputing his top class performances this year. Despite making a huge jump in leagues from the Brasilero to La Liga, Neymar has six goals and eight assists in an adjustment year at Barcelona often playing without Lionel Messi. Add in his stellar performances in the Confederations Cup where his four goals and two assists helped Brazil to win the tournament and Neymar was definitely a highlight of 2013.
Franck Ribery: Poor Ribery – up until Nov. 19, the dimunitive Frenchman appeared to have the Ballon D’Or and World Player of the Year award under wrap. He may not be the dominant scorer that Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Messi are but he is the ultimate cerebral player – the glue of arguably the greatest Bayern Munich side of all-time and a inspiration behind their quadruple-winning season in 2013.
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese’s astonishing hat trick against Sweden in a 4-2 win in the World Cup qualifying playoffs was arguably one of the greatest singular performances by a player in Football’s history. Pair that with scoring 65 goals in 69 appearances for club and country, Ronaldo is the likely favorite to win both the Ballon D’Or and the World Player of the Year award (FIFA certainly helped his case by extending the voting deadline after his memorable performance).
Luis Suarez: If this award was given during the first six months of 2013, there’s no way the controversial Suarez would be mentioned. Topping off his controversial time in England by bitting Branislav Ivanovic, there were plenty of Prem fans who wouldn’t have minded the Liverpool forward departing. What a difference a few months make, Suarez is now the favorite to win Prem’s player of the season of the year award after scoring 19 goals in just 12 appearances so far this year.