Offside look back at the best images of the stars of Brazil 2014 recognised by FIFA for their greatness and their goalscoring.
Golden Ball winner: Lionel Messi
While Messi may not have been everyone’s pick for the player of the tournament, the Barcelona forward is undeniably a historically great player. The arguments over his status alongside Pele and Diego Maradona will probably continue to run on forever, will with or without World Cup medals, but his record-breaking statistics at club level and deference shown by his Argentinian team mates underlines his status as a very special footballer.
Brazil 2014 may not have seen the full extent of his high-impact talents—never mind that he supposedly created the most chances, he didn’t force them to affect the score line as we’ve come to expect him to at his force-of-nature best—but perhaps he would have been wrong for him not to pick up the Golden Ball at some point in his career?
He is an Adidas player after all.
Golden Boot winner: James Rodriguez
The man that many believed to be the true front-runner in the race for the Golden Ball had to settle for the Golden Boot in Brazil, as Colombia’s James Rodriguez grabbed the top-scorer trophy with an impressive six goals from five games.
At 5’11” he towered over Messi in more than one way this summer, as the gleaming heart beat of Jose Pekerman’s team, who rattled Brazil in the quarter-finals, even without their injured star, Monco’s Radamel Falcao.
Golden Gloves winner: Manuel Neuer
In a tournament full of stunning goalkeeping performances, it was always going to take something special for one player to claim the Golden Gloves over the likes of Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa or Chile’s Claudio Bravo, and Manuel Neuer didn’t disappoint.
The German played as a sweeper-keeper in the truest sense of the term, rocketing out of his box to clear threats in the middle of the park, and strolling about the turf like some overgrown Andrea Pirlo in thick gloves.
Perhaps it’s fitting that he claimed this year’s prize on the continent that gave us Rene Higuita?
Young Player of the tournament: Paul Pogba
At one point it looked as though former Manchester United turned Juventus dynamo Paul Pogba was going to substantiate his billing as the next Zinedine Zidane well ahead schedule, as the midfielder to drive France to World Cup glory.
Such talk now seems far fetched given how the eventual winners Germany dispatched them in the quarter-finals, but with his goal against Nigeria, a comprehensive cameo against Switzerland and promising showings against Honduras and Ecuador, he was well on his way to looking the part.
He certainly looked like a player who will be challenging for the full-sized Golden Ball award in tournaments to come.
World Cup final Man of the Match: Mario Gotze
Speaking of players coming of age, Mario Gotze arrived on the field late-on against Argentina in the final to provide the decisive action of the game to hand Germany their fourth World Cup.
Up until that moment, the Bayern Munich playmaker had been rather mediocre in Brazil, coming off the back of a good but not great season under Pep Guardiola. Then again, it was only average in relation to the individual heights of form and fancy he showed under Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund prior to his controversial move last summer.
At just 22 however, his best is yet to come, and he has plenty of time to fulfil the hype bestowed upon him by the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, who once labelled him as Germany’s very own Messi.
Yet given how he was able to find the winning goal in the World Cup final that so eluded the Argentinian, he may already feel as though he’s already surpassed the multiple Champions League winner in at least one aspect.
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