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So, who is the real MVP of world football?

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To the surprise of very few, Lionel Messi and Marta won the Ballons d’Or as the top players on the planet as selected by the FIFA voters.

For Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Messi’s two Barcelona teammates, their downfall was that they are seen as parts of a two-headed monster, tippy-tapping the ball back and forth through the midfield. It’s hard to separate the two from each other.

So, Messi, who didn’t have as successful a World Cup as his Spanish mates, who is fantastic to watch but probably doesn’t mean as much to Barcelona’s success as the two midfielders, wins the award. And well he should, because the Ballon D’Or goes to best player in the world. Period.

But, if only the criteria were the same as we see in most North American sports leagues; what if the award went to not the best player, but the one adjudged to be “the most valuable to his team.”

If that’s the case, Iniesta and Xavi, the men who staff the engine rooms for both Spain and Barcelona, should be ahead.

But, others would also go into the lead pack. Simply based on the criteria of “most valuable” and not “best,” would Diego Forlan not get votes? This is a man who meant more to his national side than any other player did at the World Cup. He played in a recessed role for Uruguay, causing defensive lines to unfurl, and created openings for teammate Luis Suarez. Forlan was both finisher and provider. He scored on free kicks, open play and created spaces all over the field — and helped push Uruguay into the final four, when most thought the declined South American power wouldn’t get out of the group stage.

You could also make arguments for Arjen Robben, thanks to the Champions League goals he scored for Bayern Munich; or the opportunistic Wesley Sneijder, and his key goals that sent the Dutch through to the World Cup final.

The question is: Does Bayern Munich go the Champions League final without Robben? No. Does Barcelona win La Liga without Messi? Yes.

It’s impossible for FIFA voters to look at the most prestigious individual awards the way we do in North America. If they were to take stock of “most valuable to his team,” each voter would need to consider hundreds of different clubs from leagues around the world. By simply choosing the best of the best, the voters got it down to three Barca players — and Iniesta and Xavi were always going to split their votes.

On the women’s side, Marta was the top scorer in WPS, with 19 tallies in 24 games. But, was any woman more valuable to her teams than Canada’s own Christine Sinclair? She scored the winning goal in the WPS championship. She also scored the deciding markers in the Gold Cup and the winner of the Sao Paulo tournament, but those came too late for the judges, as the nominees were announced in late October.

So, here’s the question. Based on the criteria of most valuable to his or her team, to whom would you give the award (man, woman or both)? We at The 11 would love to know.

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