Let’s cut to the chase: we’ve all eaten too much, drunk too much and sat on the sofa for way too long.
Simultaneously, those nutters in the Premier League have been burning calories with the same ruthless efficiency as I’ve been packing them away. Does that count as offsetting? I think so. The way I see it, the new year starts and rather like the top of the league: we’re back to square one.
In the meantime, the year has scrolled over and that means it’s Ballon D’Or time! So, considering FIFA will only cock this up too, here’s my almost unarguably accurate verdict on last year’s most influential footballers.
5. Harry Kane
Right, a bit punchy, I know, but he’s English, he’s young, and he’s scoring goals. Perhaps the first glimmer of hope for an England forward in ten years. He may not be the most technical, nor the most agile, and these are obviously very early days, but as we all saw first hand, he’s got a directness and a confidence that you can only admire.
The worst thing that could happen for England is that Kane gets bought by a big club and put on the bench for his formative years. Give him 90 mins a week, every week and let’s see what happens at France 2016.
4. Frank Lampard
In direct contrast, here’s a player at the end of his career still showing how timing and savvy can trump youthful exuberance every time. To date he’s scored 7 goals for Manchester City, contributed 5 points directly to their campaign and simultaneously robbed us of 2 points: that’s a 7 points swing; not bad for an old dog. Of course, it hasn’t really made any difference, we’re still top of the league, cos we start with a C! Top of the league, cos we start with a C!
3. John Terry
Perhaps most noticeable in his absence, John Terry has been rejuvenated under Jose and last season delivered easily the league’s most frugal defence. Of course, we didn’t win, but JT can hardly be blamed for us scoring 30 goals less than the opposition. By the same token, England didn’t have any trouble scoring vital goals at the World Cup, but they came undone through basic defensive blunders: poor marshalling at corners, failure to clear the lines of innocuous long balls… With lowly Costa Rica qualifying from our group, it begs the question: what might have happened had Roy Hodgson picked up the phone and offered JT a place on the plane?
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Well I mean, any self-respecting list of best footballers is going to have to feature two names, and in this list, CR7 comes second. He won the Champions League and the World Club Cup, and will doubtless win the Ballon D’Or, because he’s scored the most goals, but take him out of the most expensive team ever put together and he goes out in the first round. Of course, Cristiano is a phenomenal forward and scores some breathtaking goals, but there’s a brutality to his play that suggests ten thousand hours of practice rather than an innate footballing soul. That’s not a criticism, what he does is amazing, but to me CR7 just feels like a computer programme where all the levels are turned up to 10. Somewhere in amongst it all, there’s a lack of magic.
1. Leo Messi
He’s almost single-handedly keeping an aging Barcelona in the Liga title fight, scores and creates a miraculous number of goals, and was one Gonzalo Higuain tap-in away from winning the World Cup and being recognised as the greatest player the game has ever seen. Messi may not have won the World Cup, or the Champions League, or even La Liga, but in football, teams win trophies, not individuals, and a trophy haul only tells part of the story. The fact remains, any team with Messi in the line up has a chance of winning. Combine that with an apparent humbleness that follows his goals you have the closest thing we’ll ever see in real life to Pele’s Escape to Victory chalkboard tactic: “Colby, after you give me ball here, I do this, this, this, this, this, this, this… goal. Easy!”