Every winter, football fans from around the world anticipate the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, which is granted to the best player of that season. The finalists for the men’s competition were Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Neuer, Bayern Munich’s gifted goalkeeper, helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup. Ronaldo, who has won the award twice already, led Real Madrid to their 10th Champions League victory. Messi, a three-time winner, helped Argentina reach the final of the World Cup.
Ultimately, it was Real Madrid’s golden boy Ronaldo that claimed the prize, rounding his total wins of the illustrious award to three. The forward had a stellar campaign, finishing as the world’s top scorer and setting a record with 17 goals in the Champions League. With his fellow teammates Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez beaming with pride in the background, the Portuguese powerhouse thanked his mother, son and teammates for motivating him. Ronaldo also expressed his future goals.
“I want to get better as the days go by … I want to become one of the greatest players of all time,” he said. The FIFA team of the year included the three finalists plus Sergio Ramos, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Philipp Lahm, Andres Iniesta, Toni Kroos, Angel Di Maria and Arjen Robben. For the women, Nadine Kessler, a young German attacker, picked up her first Ballon d’Or, beating out Brazil’s legendary Marta and the United State’s veteran forward Abby Wambach to claim the prize. Joachim Loew was titled Coach of the Year for leading Germany to their fourth World Cup victory.
January also brings about winter transfers, with one of the most shocking transfers that rocked the English Premier League: the announcement that longtime Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, will be leaving the club in July 2015 to pursue the end of his career in Los Angeles with the LA Galaxy. The trend of older respected players leaving their longtime teams was seen earlier this year with Xabi Alonso’s stray from Real Madrid to Bayern Munich. Gerrard was not only the captain of Liverpool but also of England’s National team. Shortly after the 2014 World Cup, the English midfielder announced his retirement from International Football, signaling a possible end to his entire professional career soon.
While it seems reasonable that a 34-year old would retire from international football, many are shocked by his decision to play in the MLS to end his career. Following the footsteps of David Beckham at LA Galaxy, Gerrard signed an 18-month contract with the Galaxy reportedly worth nine million dollars. The announcement angered many fans who felt their captain should finish his career at Liverpool. To consol these fans, Gerrard solemnly stated in an interview that he would continue fighting for the club and wishes them well.
“I am trying to cheer the fans up, it’s been a rough six months. I’ll keep fighting until the final ball … [playing in America] is a great opportunity for me and my family, but, yeah, it’s tough,” he said. Regardless of fans’ current opinions, Gerrard will always be remembered in the hearts of Liverpool supporters as a dedicated captain who led his team the best he could.
Fernando Torres, infamous for club-hopping, returned to his Spanish roots by joining Atlético Madrid on loan this December from Milan. Torres, who was quite disappointing in England with Chelsea and lackluster with Milan, seems to have gained back his old talent with Diego Simeone’s scrappy team. The 30-year-old striker returned to Spain with a 45,000-fan crowd greeting their former player. It seems the forward is playing better with Atlético’s style of having two men up front. In his second game back, a Copa del Rey match against Champions League titans Real Madrid, Torres netted two goals to knock los blancos out of the tournament.
The big-spending club, Real Madrid, has been busy during the January transfer window, buying younger players to boost their future team. They picked up two midfielders, Norwegian teenage sensation Martin Odegaard as well as Lucas Silva, a Brazilian under-21 star.
As usual, although the winter transfer window has closed, there are already talks about future moves this summer. One trending possibility is of Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper, David De Gea, making a move to Real Madrid. The keeper reportedly issued his club an ultimatum to pay his buyout clause for this summer. Borussia Dortmund has shown interest in Real Madrid striker, Jese, who just came off a serious leg injury. Everton is toying with the idea of signing Manchester United’s winger Adnan Januzaj, and Arsenal is interested in signing Edinson Cavani, the unhappy forward from PSG.