Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano has said that Manchester United winger Angel di Maria is a more deserving candidate for the 2014 Ballon d’Or than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Di Maria was on the books of Real Madrid for four years from 2010 until 2014 and was a key figure in their Champions League triumph past season.
Ronaldo, who moved to Madrid from United in the summer of 2009 for a then world-record fee, was another important player in Los Blancos’s 10th European Cup triumph in May.
The Portugal international forward is widely recognised as one of the two best players in the world, but Mascherano believes that last season fellow Argentina teammate and United’s £59.7 million summer signing Di Maria was better than the 29-year-old.
"I would vote for Leo,” Sport Witness quotes the former Liverpool star as telling Clarin in Argentina. “Because among other things he was the best player in the World Cup.
"Angel was decisive in the season for Real Madrid... and the third would be a colleague at Barcelona, Neymar. The player I admire most for Germany is Lahm... Could also be the third.”
When asked about Ronaldo, Mascherano stated: “Also he's a great player. He and Leo are a step above the rest for a long time.
“For my pleasure, and not just because he's from Argentina, Leo is more attractive. He's all over the pitch. He can make the team play. And Cristiano seems more of a scorer. They are the two most important players.”
Mascherano does have a point about Di Maria being decisive for Madrid last season, but there can hardly be any doubt that without Ronaldo the Spanish giants would not be the team they are now.
One factor that could count in favour of Di Maria for the Ballon d'Or award is his performance for Argentina at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil in the summer.
Argentina reached the final with the 26-year-old winger playing a key role. As for Portugal, they failed to progress even to the last 16 stage.