There was a time when every team had a leader, a worldwide star. The list from Mexico’86 is the best example: Diego Maradona (Argentina), Michel Platini (France), Zico (Brazil), Gary Lineker (England), Hugo Sanchez (Mexico), Lothar Matthaus (Germany), Enzo Scifo (Belgium), Michael Laudrup (Denmark) , Alessandro Altobelli (Italy), Zbigniew Boniek (Poland) and Igor Belanov (USSR).
Belanov was the surprise winner of the Ballon d’Or that season ahead of runner-up Lineker (the top scorer at the World Cup and in the English top flight) and Emilio Butragueno, who placed third. The modern-day world and European champions, in comparison, are unique; Spain have become the best team in the world without an individual player of this type.
We could talk about Andres Iniesta, who is, for me, the best midfielder on the planet at this moment. I can hardly think of a more complete player and, above all, one who understands the game like he does. His ability to improve everyone around him astonishes, as does the quality of his passing, dribbling and shooting. But he is never put on the level of the stars of Mexico’86, and, having already scored the goal to win one World Cup, I do not understand why.
Maybe, though, there is one player who could reach the summit on the back of this tournament. After a superb season with Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos is ready to contest this year’s Ballon D’Or. To win it, he will need Spain to put themselves in for the title fight this summer.
He has led from the back for Real Madrid, scored decisive goals in the Champions League – most notably in the final – and has seemed to add a new element to the all-round excellence of his game every week. His influence has also served to cover the absence of Carles Puyol in the squad, a crucial element in previous championships. Fabio Cannavaro won the award after the World Cup in 2006; why not Ramos if Spain are victorious again in Brazil?