Stats: Did Lionel Messi deserve to win the Golden Ball?

Lionel Messi Argentina

The Argentina and Barcelona forward was chosen as the World Cup's best player.

Lionel Messi won the World Cup Golden Ball on Sunday, despite a below-par performance in Argentina's loss to Germany in the final.

The Barcelona forward was held in check by the German defence for much of the game and missed a gilt-edged opportunity to put his side ahead in the second half.

There is no doubt that Argentina would not have made it to the World Cup final without Messi. With his team faltering in the group stage, he won games almost single-handedly, the highlight being his last-minute wondergoal that saw Argentina beat Iran 1-0.

But in the latter stages of the tournament, Messi faded in and out of games. All season the 27-year-old looked like he was saving himself for the World Cup, but he appeared jaded at times in the knockout rounds.

There were plenty of other contenders to win the award - Colombia's James Rodriguez, the Netherlands' Arjen Robben and Germany's Philipp Lahm were all arguably more deserving winners than Messi.

  MinsTouches per gamePoss lost per gamePass accuracy (%)Chances createdAssistsShotsShots on targetGoals
Lionel Messi 693 70.29 20.86 80.28 23 1 23 8 4
Arjen Robben 690 59.86 16.43 86.73 17 1 19 9 3
James Rodríguez 400 64.20 18.80 76.65 11 2 16 8 6

Messi, Robben and Rodriguez are all very comparable. All three were their teams' best attacking players and were relied upon both to score and to create chances.

A look at their statistics reveals that Messi was involved in the play more than the other two players, but he gave the ball away slightly more often. He created the most chances of the trio but that resulted in just one assist, and he was less efficient in front of goal than both Rodriguez and Robben.

Rodriguez shines here as the best attacking player of the tournament. While his pass accuracy does not compare to Robben's, he was fantastic in the final third. He recorded two assists to Messi and Robben's one, and he was ruthless in front of goal, hitting the target with 50 per cent of his attempts and converting six of his eight shots on target.

The other major contender for the Golden Ball was Lahm.

  MinsTouches per gamePoss lost per gamePass accuracy (%)Ball recoveriesInterceptionsTackles madeTackles won
Philipp Lahm 690 103.43 10.71 90.75 45 8 14 12

As a holding midfielder and full-back, Lahm was excellent for Germany all tournament. The Bayern Munich star's ball retention was second to none - he touched the ball over 100 times per game, rarely gave it away and completed over 90 per cent of his passes.

Lahm's first responsibility for both club and country is to be defensively solid, and he was excellent in that regard in Brazil. He won 12 of his 14 tackles, made eight interceptions and picked up a staggering 45 loose balls.

The Golden Ball should be awarded to the player who was most vital to his team's success. This Germany side is not built around one superstar - it relies upon several great players performing in specific roles. Lahm was almost flawless in performing those duties and was a big part of his side's success.

The winner, however, should have been Rodriguez. Colombia were one of the surprise packages in this tournament, but without their talisman they might have struggled to get out of the group. He scored in every game he played and seemed to be at the centre of every meaningful attack for the South Americans.

This World Cup will be remembered for its fantastic attacking play, and Rodriguez's wondergoal against Uruguay was the competition's most iconic moment. Before the tournament, the Monaco man was unknown to most casual football fans,. Now, as the Golden Boot winner, his is the name on everyone's lips and is among world football's most sought-after transfer targets.

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