Following Germany's 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina in the World Cup final, Lionel Messi was surprisingly awarded the Golden Ball trophy, which goes to the tournament's best overall player. Though Messi scored four goals in the group stage and created Angel Di Maria's late winner in the round of 16, there were many other players who performed brilliantly and were overlooked so the tournament's biggest star could receive its highest individual honor. This was so obvious that even Diego Maradona, one of Messi's most ardent supporters, suspected something fishy was going on.
From the BBC:
"I would give heaven and earth to Leo," said Maradona.
"But when marketing people want him to win something he didn't [deserve to] win, it is unfair."
Maradona, who coached Messi and Argentina at the 2010 World Cup, added that it looked like Messi didn't even want to go up and collect the award, which is voted on by FIFA's technical committee. Apparently even FIFA president Sepp Blatter was surprised by the decision.
Blatter on why Messi got Golden Ball: "I was a little surprised when I saw Messi coming up to collect the prize.' Mentions group-stage goals— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) July 14, 2014
Though both teams in the final were sponsored by Adidas (which also sponsored the entire tournament and the individual awards), Messi is, without a doubt, the company's biggest star. He was also the focus of its entire World Cup advertising campaign. So if he couldn't raise the World Cup trophy for the first time in his career, perhaps someone wearing an expensive suit felt the Golden Ball would be the next best thing. Or not.
Either way, Colombia's James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot as the tournament's highest scorer, Germany's Thomas Muller, Argentina's Javier Mascherano and others deserve recognition for their fantastic performances throughout this World Cup, as well.