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Luis Suarez failed to make the three-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or as Barcelona team-mates Lionel Messi and Neymar joined Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo on the podium. That decision does not reflect Suarez’s impact in 2015, writes Adam Bate…

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All goals are not equal. That’s what Luis Suarez’s admirers will be telling themselves after the Barcelona forward missed out on a Ballon d’Or nomination this week.

The bald statistics show that his 40 club goals so far in 2015 leave him just short of the totals amassed by the three nominees – Neymar (41), Lionel Messi (44) and Cristiano Ronaldo (45). But that does not tell the story of the year.

Ronaldo, Mess or Neymar?
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar will compete for the 2015 Ballon d’Or.
Before Messi and Ronaldo turned this award into a private shoot-out and media hullaballoo, trading the trophy over each of the past seven seasons, it was customary for the award to go to the decisive player in the year’s most successful side – a recognition that while this is an individual prize, football remains a team sport.

Glance back at the history of the Ballon d’Or and there are the World Cup winners: France’s Zinedine Zidane in 1998, Brazil’s Ronaldo in 2002 and Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. There are the heroes of the Euros: Marco van Basten in 1988 and Matthias Sammer in 1996. Kaka, meanwhile, was rewarded for his role in AC Milan’s Champions League win in 2007.

Suarez won the Champions League in his first season at Barcelona
Suarez won the Champions League in his first season at Barcelona
It’s the memory of that Champions League final that might well linger when we look back on football in 2015.

Barcelona’s obvious superiority to Juventus was evident throughout and prevented the game from developing into a true classic but it still required Suarez to hammer home the point. He was the player who scored the winning goal in the biggest match of the year.

Suarez scored the decisive goal in the Champions League final against Juventus
Suarez scored the decisive goal in the Champions League final against Juventus
It was fitting because it was Suarez, even more than his brilliant accomplices in the Barcelona forward line, who intervened at the crucial moments en route to that Champions League triumph. Few in Manchester will forget his quick-fire brace that all but ended City’s hopes just 30 minutes into their three-hour last-16 tie. Another two away to Paris St Germain settled the quarter-final too.

 
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Could it have been done without Messi? Probably not, although Barcelona’s form in his absence this autumn would suggest that Suarez has the personality and the quality to accept that responsibility. He scored 11 times in the 857 minutes that Messi missed, including the opening goal in the recent Clasico at the Bernabeu.

Indeed, given the respective assist totals, the more pertinent question might be whether Barca could have done it without Suarez. The Uruguayan’s total of 22 assists in 2015 is more than Messi has managed and means that he has been directly involved in more goals this year than both Neymar and Ronaldo. It seems that he has a case in terms of both quantity and quality.

Ballon d’Or comparison – Club records in 2015

Player :  Club Games Goals Assists
Lionel Messi Barcelona 48 44 21
Neymar Barcelona 50 41 12
Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 47 45 14
Luis Suarez Barcelona 52 40 22

His team-mates appear to agree. “I also would have liked to share the event with Luis because he also deserved to be there following his great performance during last season,” said Messi this week. Suarez’s form can hardly have escaped him. In the past week alone, he has struck beautiful volleys against Roma and Real Sociedad.

Suarez doubled Barcelona’s lead over Real Sociedad with this volley
Suarez doubled Barcelona’s lead over Real Sociedad with this volley
Of course, those efforts came too late to influence the Ballon d’Or voting and it may well be that Suarez’s unsavoury past proved a factor. After all, having disgraced himself at last year’s World Cup, he served a suspension that meant he didn’t return to action until late October in 2014. The memories of past indiscretions and a faltering start at Barcelona could have clouded the issue.

However, that backdrop only serves to highlight that 2015 really was Suarez’s year. A year in which he shrugged off the pressure, was humble enough to put himself at the service of a genius and still had the chutzpah to seize the big moment for himself. He went goal for goal with some of the best players of all time and even scored the one that mattered most. A nomination was the least that Suarez’s achievements merited.