Messi the Golden Boot winner - TNP analysts disagree
TNP analysts believe Argentine is not a worthy Golden Ball winner
Lionel Messi the World Cup's best player? You must be joking.
That was the unanimous reaction of The New Paper analysts Dietmar Hamann, Paul Parker and Ray Houghton, who all agreed the Argentina captain was a ludicrous choice as Fifa's Golden Ball winner.
Messi was picked by Fifa's technical study group as the competition's standout player, but the decision has been roundly questioned, even by Argentinian legend Diego Maradona.
Former Ireland international Houghton, who scored against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, said with a chuckle: "Messi actually looked embarrassed to go up and pick up the award, didn't he?
"I think even he knows he didn't deserve it. He looked really tired in the semi-final and final, and the tally of two shots on goal in 120 minutes against Germany is not exactly the mark of the best player of the tournament.
"He's not going to put that trophy next to the three Ballon d'Or awards he's won over the years, I'm sure."
Former Germany midfielder Hamann, who lined up for Die Mannschaft in the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil, stressed the uproar wasn't because the Barcelona star was poor, but because there were other players who deserved the award more.
After all, Messi scooped up successive Man of the Match awards in Argentina's first four games - the three group matches against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria, and the Round of 16 clash with Switzerland.
He also created more chances at the World Cup (23) and went on more dribbles (46) than any other player.
But Hamann said: "He had a good tournament, but there were others who had a better tournament than him.
"Thomas Mueller, James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben, and even Neymar - up to the point he got injured - were better.
"But, personally, the Golden Ball is an individual prize that doesn't have any real significance.
"As a player at the World Cup, the only thing you want to win is the title itself. And I'm sure Messi is thinking that right now."
Houghton and Parker, who played for England at the 1990 World Cup, criticised Fifa - who hailed Messi as "a true captain and a true matchwinner" when they announced individual award winners on their website - for the decision.
Said Houghton: "It's Fifa's fault and giving it to him makes a mockery of the award.
"The whole point of the award is to give it to the best player of the tournament, period.
"We all have our opinions but I don't think many would pick Messi."
Parker said he was "shocked" at the decision to give Messi the award.
"They chose him because it was easy to, because people look at Messi as the best player in the world," said the former Manchester United right-back.
"He did better than in previous tournaments, he carried the team in the group stage, and he played in the final.
"But to give it to him is almost disrespectful to the other players who did much better, and you can name six or seven players who actually did have better tournaments.
"Fifa could have made a point by picking a player from one of the less famous footballing nations. There are players from Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, who could have won the award.
"In the end, they made a point, but it was the wrong one."
TNP ANALYSTS' PICKS FOR THE GOLDEN BALL
Manuel Neuer was the best player in the tournament, so he should have taken home both the Golden Glove and Golden Ball awards.
- Dietmar Hamann
Arjen Robben is the man for me. I don't like his diving, but take that away and he was terrific. He's had a real impact for Holland.
- Ray Houghton
I'd go with James Rodriguez, because of the goals and the assists that he delivered. He got everybody excited.
- Paul Parker
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said Lionel Messi's Golden Ball award as the player of the World Cup was richly deserved despite the South Americans' 1-0 extra-time defeat by Germany in the final.
Messi missed a glorious chance for Argentina in the showpiece at the Maracana yesterday morning (Singapore time) but Sabella said the Barcelona attacker is already among the true greats of the game.
"He deserves it because he played an extraordinary World Cup," said Sabella.
"He was a fundamental factor in the team making it to the final, along with everything done by his other teammates.
"The World Cup is a highly demanding tournament, and as for his reputation, he is in that pantheon among the greats. But he was there before - he has been there for quite some time."
However, Messi himself said winning the award recognising the best player of the tournament had no significance to him.
"This was a chance to give the fans some joy after all the sadness," said the 27-year-old.
"The Golden Ball is not important. All I wanted was to lift the cup."
"We had our chances but we could not score. In games like these, that is not acceptable."
One of Messi's biggest fans, Diego Maradona - who praised him repeatedly during the tournament - said the Barcelona man was an undeserving Golden Ball winner.
"Messi? I would give him heaven if possible," said the World Cup winner on Venezuelan-based TV station, Telesur.
"But it's not right when someone wins something that he shouldn't have won just because of some marketing plan."
Fellow pundit Stan Collymore agreed, calling it a "disgrace".
The former England international told talkSPORT: "His performance was poor tonight.
"We've seen him three or four times now in the flesh and he's been poor in all of them, bar several trademark runs which I think masks a lot.
"It's an absolute disgrace giving him the Golden Ball. You look at players like James Rodriguez, even players like Chile's Alexis Sanchez and Manuel Neuer (deserve it more).
"He wasn't even the best player in the Argentina side in the final or during the tournament, (Javier) Mascherano gets that vote for me."
- Wire Services.