Lionel Messi the World Cup’s best player? You must be joking.
That was the unanimous reaction of The New Paper analysts Dietmar Hamann, Paul Parker and Ray Houghton, who all agreed the Argentina captain was a ludicrous choice as Fifa's Golden Ball winner.
Messi was picked by Fifa's technical study group as the competition's standout player, but the decision has been roundly questioned, even by Argentinian legend Diego Maradona.
Former Ireland international Houghton, who scored against Italy at the 1994 World Cup, said with a chuckle: "Messi actually looked embarrassed to go up and pick up the award, didn't he?
"I think even he knows he didn't deserve it. He looked really tired in the semi-final and final, and the tally of two shots on goal in 120 minutes against Germany is not exactly the mark of the best player of the tournament.
"He's not going to put that trophy next to the three Ballon d'Or awards he's won over the years, I'm sure."
Former Germany midfielder Hamann, who lined up for Die Mannschaft in the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil, stressed the uproar wasn't because the Barcelona star was poor, but because there were other players who deserved the award more.
After all, Messi scooped up successive Man of the Match awards in Argentina's first four games - the three group matches against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria, and the Round of 16 clash with Switzerland.
He also created more chances at the World Cup (23) and went on more dribbles (46) than any other player.
But Hamann said: "He had a good tournament, but there were others who had a better tournament than him.
"Thomas Mueller, James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben, and even Neymar - up to the point he got injured - were better.
"But, personally, the Golden Ball is an individual prize that doesn't have any real significance.
"As a player at the World Cup, the only thing you want to win is the title itself. And I'm sure Messi is thinking that right now."
Houghton and Parker, who played for England at the 1990 World Cup, criticised Fifa - who hailed Messi as "a true captain and a true matchwinner" when they announced individual award winners on their website - for the decision.
Said Houghton: "It's Fifa's fault and giving it to him makes a mockery of the award.
"The whole point of the award is to give it to the best player of the tournament, period.
"We all have our opinions but I don't think many would pick Messi."
Parker said he was "shocked" at the decision to give Messi the award.
"They chose him because it was easy to, because people look at Messi as the best player in the world," said the former Manchester United right-back.
"He did better than in previous tournaments, he carried the team in the group stage, and he played in the final.
"But to give it to him is almost disrespectful to the other players who did much better, and you can name six or seven players who actually did have better tournaments.
"Fifa could have made a point by picking a player from one of the less famous footballing nations. There are players from Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, who could have won the award.
"In the end, they made a point, but it was the wrong one."
This article was first published on July 15, 2014.
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