Lionel Messi was awarded FIFA's Golden Ball, as best player of the World Cup, and it was sort of a cruel selection. Not only did it highlight that the world's undisputed best player became increasingly less visible as the tournament wore on, but it forced Messi to receive his trophy on the pitch, when he sounded like he'd rather be anywhere but. "Right now I don't care about the prize," he told AS. "I don't care about anything."
Messi scored four goals in the group stage, set up the winner in the round of 16, and generally drew defenders and created havoc even when Argentina didn't find the scoresheet. That said, you've got Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, and Thomas Müller right there, all very arguably better choices. You get the sense that it was close—and that Messi's tiebreaker edge may simply have been being Leo Messi.
Argentina's greatest agrees. Last night, Diego Maradona railed against Messi's selection as Golden Ball winner, alleging that it's good business for everyone to keep handing Messi the individual hardware.
"Messi? I would give him heaven if possible," Maradona said. "But it's not right when someone wins something that he shouldn't have won just because of some marketing plan."
There are already conspiracy theories popping up, noting that the Golden Ball is sponsored by Adidas, which counts Messi as its most prominent endorser. Also, for the first time, the award was decided by a FIFA committee and not the media—and it's naturally in FIFA's interest to prop up the best player in the world, who just had a pretty rough year, with one of the few trophies that has eluded him (and which he may never get a great chance at again).
Whether there was anything shady about Messi's Golden Ball, or whether voters were starstruck, the real crime was in forcing him to accept it minutes after the most painful loss of his sporting life. Messi always looks like he could use a hug; I hope Alex Sabella bought him some ice cream last night.