In my last entry, I detailed my reasoning for proclaiming Cristiano Ronaldo the best active player, and since then, he’s received the Professional Football Association’s Player of the Year Award for the second year in a row. Whether he wins the FIFA POY award remains to be seen, but I’d wager a hefty sum he’ll be collecting that silver soon.
While Ronaldo takes the prize for best club footballer, I feel it necessary to mention the most valuable international footballer I’ve seen play in the past year. While he may not be as flashy as Ronaldo, Juan Roman Riquelme’s deadball striking, playmaking, and defense drove his Argentina squad to the final of the Copa America, where they lost to Brazil. Having watched the entire tournament, I expected a much better showing in the final from Argentina, but it seemed to me that only Riquelme showed up, and even his talents were not enough when facing off against Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Brazil’s other superstars.
While Riquelme has had an up and down professional career—up with Villareal, down with Barcelona—on the international stage he has shined brightly, even when threatening to be eclipsed by striking stars the likes of Carlos Tevez, Hernan Crespo, and Lionel Messi. No player was more invaluable than Riquelme in the Copa America, and in international play since then, both World Cup qualifiers and friendlies, he’s been a player that must be stopped to have any hope of beating Argentina. Since he plays his club ball in South America, he largely goes ignored when award season rolls around, especially in non-World Cup years, but I’ll break the mold and say he deserves recognition for his performance last summer on the international stage.