They say the Ballon d'Or is democratic but it's not. Not really. A proper democratic vote surely relies on a universal, secret ballot. By contrast, one of the things that makes the Ballon d'Or vote so interesting to pick over is the fact that you can pick over it. The real fun comes after Messi and Xavi have stepped down from the podium and the list of voters and votes is handed out.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- One figure has dominated this Copa America. The shadow of Sergio Markarian, the balding, bespectacled Peru coach who had such an influence on the philosophy of the sides who finished first, second and third, lurked in the background, but the man of the tournament was the tall, grey-haired figure with the limp who calmly wandered around shaking hands and exchanging hugs at fulltime in the final, as his players cavorted in one great mass of celebration.
On Tuesday night, Oscar Washington Tabarez limped across the pitch in La Plata and paused, his knee injury apparently making him wary of progressing too far on the sodden, uneven surface. He looked at his celebrating players as though determined to soak in the spectacle and as they slowly broke off to trot in to the dressing-room, each made a point of going over to him. Tabarez's second coming as national coach has already been glorious, but on Sunday it might get even better.
SANTA FE, Argentina -- As Martin Caceres' penalty soared into the top corner and confirmed Uruguay's passage to a fifth successive Copa America semifinal, a sense of disbelief fell over the Estadio Estanislau Lopez.
He was the first Atlético Madrid player to win the European Golden Boot, almost single-handedly taking the club into the Champions League with 32 goals in 33 games -- the highest figure for a rojiblanco in 20 years -- while also providing 10 assists in 2008-2009. It was his second Golden Boot with two different clubs. In his first three seasons at Atlético, his average match-day rating, according to the newspaper AS, has made him the league's fifth-, first- and ninth-best player. No wonder the Calderón rang out to chants of "¡Uruguayo! ¡Uruguayo!"
Before they used to say "You were the champions? Sure, when football didn't even exist, but today they're looking at us in a different light," Edinson Cavani said in an interview in El Pais this month about the impact of Uruguay's World Cup campaign, which saw the country reach fourth place after decades of absence from center stage.
Before Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and company fired Uruguay into the semifinals of last year's World Cup, many people had forgotten (or never knew) that this little South American country with a population of under 3.5 million has an extraordinary soccer tradition.
Every team at this summer's World Cup has key players on which it depends. But some squads have players who influence the game so much that their team simply isn't the same without them. These are the "untouchables" -- the guys for whom coaches, fans and even teammates at times say little prayers in hopes they'll stay healthy. Here are some of those players whose teams need them to be at their very best.
There's only one Carlos Tévez. With a move away from Old Trafford now almost a formality, several clubs continue to fight for the striker's much sought-after signature, making it one of the most long-running transfer sagas in recent history. The biggest loser is Manchester United, which hesitated in offering the Argentine star a permanent deal because his $37.5 million buyout fee seemed excessive.