A friend asked me this question right after the Inter-Barca first leg:
If Barcelona don’t get to the final, lose the league title to Madrid and Argentina bomb at the World Cup, will Lionel Messi still win the World Player of the Year award for 2010?
There’s no doubt that Messi has been an outstanding candidate for all awards, but there’s every chance that he might be upstaged in the Champions League and later on in South Africa. What then? Would all of his glowing performances mean nothing if he ended the season empty-handed?
Consider the case of Ryan Giggs – he has been the best Welsh player for the last two decades but has no World Cup appearances to show for it. Without the numerous club accolades, would he receive as much respect and reverence as he does now?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have ruled the world in the last three-four years but have no international titles to show for it (unless you count the Olympics). That doesn’t rule out their stellar performances, but without those titles at club level, would they be the same mega superstars as they are today?
Of course not. Titles – won by your club team or your national team – get people talking about you, and that translates into widespread recognition and eventually that recognition translates into tangible awards (and big fat contracts and sponsorships).
Going back to the original question – if United were to snatch the title from Chelsea’s grasp, and if by some stroke of magnificent luck England were to win the World Cup, Rooney would automatically become a shoe-in for the World Player of the Year award (you can trust the British press to hype him up enough). It’s not going to happen (England winning the World Cup), but it does lead to an interesting conclusion – titles aren’t everything, but only titles count.
Someone should frame that and put it up in the Arsenal dressing room.