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Guillem Balague discusses the Gareth Bale ball-hogging controversy and who may replace Luis Enrique at Barca

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 07:  Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale of Real Madrid get ready to kick off the ball after Club Atletico de Madrid
Image: Bale needs to link up more with his Real team-mates to be truly appreciated by the club's fans

The first thing that I want to say about the Ballon d’Or result is that there should not have been such a massive gap between Cristiano Ronaldo (37.66 per cent) and Lionel Messi (15.76 per cent) in the voting, and in particular between Manuel Neuer (15.72 per cent) and Ronaldo.

One of the things that should decide your vote, according to the instructions of FIFA, is how well you have played for your national team, especially in big games.

You can make an argument for Ronaldo not being at his best level between April and July because of an injury to his tendon, which kept him out of the Copa del Rey final. He also played, but did not have much of an impact, in the Champions League final, despite scoring Madrid’s fourth goal from the penalty spot.

And Ronaldo was not on top of his game in the World Cup either because he was not fit enough, although you can also say that Neuer conceded five goals in the Champions League semi-finals, and that Messi did not win any team titles in 2014.

Ronaldo was the top goalscorer in both La Liga and the Champions League, so it is clear that he has had a special year.
Guillem Balague

But there are many reasons that Neuer should have got closer to winning the Ballon d’Or: he has changed the way that goalkeepers now play, and this was a process that perhaps started with Victor Valdes at Barcelona, but that he has taken to a completely new level. 

With Neuer, there are 12 players on the pitch, but as Gaizka Mendieta said on Revista de la Liga, it is very unfashionable to give the award to a goalkeeper.

Having said all of that, Ronaldo was the best player of 2014: even if he only scored three more goals than Messi managed last year.

But for the last two years now you have seen a transformation in Ronaldo, partly due to him understanding the limits of his body, so that instead of him making long runs with the ball, he prefers to make runs into space and lets others pass the ball to him. He is now more of a No 9.

It is like he is becoming a goalscorer without the ball and without being so involved in the build-up play. And Madrid have obviously benefited from this change with all of the titles that they won in 2014, including the Copa del Rey, European Super Cup, Champions League and the Club World Cup.

Ronaldo was also the top goalscorer in both La Liga and the Champions League, so it is clear that he has had a special year.

Meanwhile, there has also been yet more talk about Messi over the weekend after he said that, ‘you never know in life where you are going to end up,’ which is an ambiguous answer to give about his future at Barcelona that he has repeated for a while.

He did then clarify after the ceremony that his words were, as usual, taken out of context and that he wants to stay at the club.

Messi is just trying to make sure that he is comfortable at Barcelona. That ambiguity about his future is a way of saying: 'one can only stay where he feels happy.'

Now I have said in the past that there are only two ways for Messi to leave Barcelona: one is for him to force his way out, to say that he wants to leave, and another is for Barcelona to want to sell him. But it is impossible, without negotiating with Barcelona, to buy him because of Financial Fair Play rules.

All in all it is an arm-wrestling challenge that Messi has put on the table in the last 10 days. He has won. He is now again the strongest part of the club, the leader, and everyone wants to make sure he is comfortable, because that’s the best way for Barcelona to win: to keep him at the centre of the attack and the club.

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in using the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week...

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo shows his displeasure after not being passed to by Bale

Hi Guillem, what do you make of the criticism of Gareth Bale for being a “ball hog”? I can’t help but think it wouldn’t even be an issue if Ronaldo did it! Ali

GUILLEM SAYS: The criticism goes beyond just being a ball hog. There are people saying that he is in a world of his own, he doesn’t link up or collaborate enough with Madrid’s attacks and that he is always thinking of scoring and creating his own chances.

But that is not true as he is the player who has given the most amount of assists to Ronaldo (nine), but I do agree that he has to work harder both defensively and in the team’s build-up play.

This is all for him to become a better player though and to use what skills he has got. But by also linking up more with his team-mates he will make Madrid far more dangerous, while also getting that recognition that he does not currently have with Real’s fans.

The club’s supporters do love him for scoring wonderful goals in finals, but for him to be truly appreciated by the fans, not just respected, he needs to link up better with his team-mates.

Who do you see as the right man to take over at Barcelona if Luis Enrique does indeed get his marching orders? Sam

Luis Enrique
Image: Luis Enrique: Under pressure at Barcelona

GUILLEM SAYS: It is really going to depend on who wins the presidential elections and what is the way forward for a philosophy that seems to be stuck, both in terms of the youth system and the first team.

Now nobody knows how to take the club forward as nobody has got the brilliant mind or the vision of Pep Guardiola. There is nobody in the world like that.

So Frank de Boer could be a solution, while I have said for many years: 'why not Jose Mourinho at Barcelona?'. That could be a fascinating proposal, but it is not going to happen of course!

In any case, before a coach even gets chosen, I just want to hear from the winning president where and how they want to take Barcelona forward, because that is absolutely crucial.

Victor Valdes of Manchester United poses after signing for the club at Aon Training Complex on January 8, 2015 in Manchester, England
Image: Victor Valdes pictured after signing for Manchester United

Why did Victor Valdes join Manchester United to be their back-up? I heard rumours he turned down a move to Liverpool, where he surely would’ve been No 1 – is it just for money? Rich

GUILLEM SAYS: I was absolutely convinced that he was going to Liverpool. I have got very good reasons to say so and I know a lot of people in Liverpool who also thought he was going. But he felt that he was being trialled at Anfield.

And very cleverly, Louis van Gaal said we are not going to trial you, just come and train with us. But in a way, it was the same thing. It was just the choice of words he used, so Valdes decided to go there instead.

Now both Valdes and David de Gea finish their contracts at the same time at United. De Gea is wanted at Real Madrid, so Valdes has nothing to lose while he gets back to his best form, which will not be this season.

Image: Suso was not given the confidence of Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, says Guillem

Suso looks like he’s definitely going to Milan – have Liverpool missed a trick with him? Lauren

GUILLEM SAYS: He has been at Liverpool, but I feel that surely he has not been given the confidence of the coach there.

Now that does not mean that even if he had had that confidence he would still be a Liverpool player, we will never know, but without confidence it is impossible to show it. So the best thing for him to do was to leave for Milan.

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