JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11: Andres Iniesta of Spain celebrates after his goal seals victory during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11 2010 in Johannesburg South Africa. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
It was little surprise to anyone that FC Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta was named a finalist for the 2010 Ballon d'Or award (FIFA World Player of the Year) that will be given out January 10th, 2011 in Zurich. Iniesta is not as flashy as 2008 winner Cristiano Ronaldo nor the goal scorer that 2009 winner and Barca teammate Lionel Messi is. Iniesta placed fifth in the voting in 2009, will this be his year? He has shown that being a hardworking winner who has a knack for shining on the biggest stages of all can indeed get you personal recognition.
During the 2009-10 campaign, Iniesta scored just one goal in 29 appearances. He had a difficult time achieving full fitness to start the year after sustaining a thigh injury in the 2009 Champions League final, a 2-0 victory over Manchester United. Barca went on to win the La Liga title with a record 99 points while reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League before bowing out to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan.
While his club accomplishments put Iniesta in impressive company, they don't separate him as the best of the world by any stretch of the imagination. It was the 2010 FIFA World Cup where Iniesta really shined. Spain entered the competition among the favorites, having won the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Despite the hype surrounding the talented squad that included Iniesta, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Xavi Hernandez, and Iker Casillas, Spain lost their opening round match 1-0 to the Swiss.
With their backs against the wall, in was Iniesta who inspired La Roja to an impressive run of form for the remainder of the tournament. It was Iniesta who was named "man of the match" after scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Chile in the final match of the group stage. The victory mean that Spain had won their group and would have an easier opponent in the first stage of the knockout portion of the tournament.
Spain beat Portugal, Paraguay, and Germany 1-0 on their way to the final match with the Netherlands. The Spanish defense was solid but it was truly the midfield that dominated games. The ability of Iniesta, along with Xavi of course, to control possession and dictate the terms on which these matches was played was extraordinary. The 2010 FIFA World Cup final against Netherlands on July 11 in Johannesburg was the biggest stage of all, and it was Andres Iniesta who scored in the 116th minute of the game, after a great pass from Cesc Fabregas. Iniesta was, of course, named "man of the match" for the final.
I believe that the 2010 Ballon d'Or should go to a player who helped lift the World Cup trophy. Both Iniesta and Xavi were amazing for Barca this past year but in the World Cup it was Iniesta who had 2 huge goals for Spain, who only scored 8 as a team in the entire tournament (David Villa had 5). Fabio Cannavaro won the award 4 years ago for being Italy's best player during their World Cup 2006 victory, now Iniesta will be recognized the same way.