Somehow, December is upon us - where did this year go?
Anyway, with just three left for the year, welcome to another Miller Sport’s Notebook.
Ballon d’Or and Earning Potential
Late on Monday evening, amid the glitz and glamour of Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet, Argentina and PSG forward Lionel Messi was named as the world’s best footballer as he won a record 7th Ballon d’Or.
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski came in second - after being denied a certain victory last year when France Football, the Awards arbiters, decided not to name a winner - while Chelsea and Italy anchorman Jorginho landed third.
The ceremony itself went off without a hitch, but there was plenty of controversy off it.
Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, whose career long rivalry with Messi is well-documented, accused the editor of France Football - Pascal Ferre - of lying, after he told The New York Times that Ronaldo’s only ambition in life was to retire with more Ballon d’Or trophies than Messi.
The spat played out both in traditional and social media, and while it set many tongues wagging, it no doubt served its main purpose - to bring added eyeballs to the ceremony itself.
But while there was drama aplenty, the event provides an interesting window in to one of the more curiously intangible financial risks that footballers face.
For many, winning the Ballon d’Or is a distant dream. But for the wonderkids and super starlets of the footballing world, it’s increasingly becoming a bonus clause within a contract.
The gong, however, is voted on by just 180 journalists and thus the decision itself is entirely subjective.
While Lewandowski doesn’t have a Ballon d’Or clause in his contract, he could have lost out on thousands of pounds in earnings after being denied in 2020.
In less celebratory news, COVID-19 is once again rearing its ugly head and leaving a footprint across the world of sport.
Increasingly it looked as if we were now past the worst of it, but last Friday Sajid Javid placed six countries - all from Southern Africa - on the red list for travel after a new variant, ‘Omicron’, was discovered to have originated there.
That list has now been expanded to 10 countries, which are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, and stricter rules around mask wearing and testing have been implemented.
The knock-on effect to sport, while minimal, has been profound.
Both Munster and Cardiff Rugby union outfits are stranded in South Africa and both have reported positive test within camp.
The Ashes are set to get underway in Australia, but the Fifth Test in Perth has already been thrown into question as authorities look set to enforce strict quarantine measures on any player.
But amid all of the above, perhaps the most worrying for the world of sport is the curious case of Welsh snooker player Mark Williams, who fell asleep during his 6-5 loss to Anthony Hamilton in the UK Snooker Championship 2021.
The two-time UK champion missed two tournaments after contracting COVID in October, and he claimed he was ‘simply shattered’ during the match up.
The true effects of ‘long’ COVID, as it has been dubbed, are yet to be fully understood - let along what impact a variant may have on it - but with so many athletes having tested positive at some point, we may yet be in store for a host of long-term health issues further down the line.
Ben Foster’s Bad Injury
We close off the Notebook this week with some lighter - albeit slightly painful - news.
Watford and former United goalkeeper Ben Foster has had a storied career, and the latest chapter has seen him propelled to stardom off the pitch, as a Youtube sensation.
His new channel, the CyclingGK, sees him chat with current and former players, record himself during Premier League games from within the goal, and generally drive engagement across a range of content activations.
His success has seen him collaborate with a number of existing creators and, last week saw him take part in a 15 minute, outfield cameo for Youtube team Hashtag United - who ply their trade in the English 7th tier.
He was then, subsequently, out for his sides 4-2 drubbing at the hands of Leicester City, and looks set to miss the rest of the year.
He has denied that the injury was picked up playing for Hashtag, but once again it’s a reminder of the fine line that top tier athletes have to tread to ensure they don’t break contractual obligations outside of their sport.
Can you imagine the uproar, and financial loss, that’d be caused if Cristiano Ronaldo broke his leg filming a TikTok, or Lionel Messi broke his hand while Tweeting?
As daft as it seems, in today’s social media age, no athlete is truly safe!
Until next time...