Ballon d'Or: Will tonight be Ronaldo's night?
Cristiano Ronaldo must be used to giving an appreciative nod and almost resentful smile following a number of years when he has been so close to being named as the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner — the award bestowed to the best footballer in the world — but he is favourite to collect the trophy this time around.
The Real Madrid man has finished runner-up three times in the past four years since winning both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008, before the two trophies became one.
In any other generation Ronaldo would have arguably been head and shoulders above every other player but one man has continually pipped the Portugal captain to the biggest individual honour, with Lionel Messi annually crowned as the world’s best in the past four years.
But the 2013 award, which will be presented to the winner at a ceremony in Zurich today, is expected to be much closer run with both Ronaldo and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery presenting a strong challenge to Barcelona’s Messi.
Ribery was part of an all-conquering Bayern Munich side which swept everyone away both domestically and on the European stage, hammering Messi’s Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in their Champions League semi-final before going on to beat German rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Wembley final.
The 30-year-old France winger has been part of a side, along with players such as Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, Phillipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, which has led the way as the Bundesliga earns plaudits throughout the world.
Twenty-one goals in 50 appearances for club and country in 2013 have established Ribery as a player who works hard for his team and is capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck if the situation requires it.
But the FIFA Ballon d’Or is for individuals, nothing to do with the number of trophies a team have won during the year, which will be a relief to Ronaldo.
Whilst Ribery collected winners’ medals for the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Ronaldo did not win a single team accolade with Madrid in 2013.
But the 28-year-old has been in the form of his life, continually proving to be Madrid’s talisman and breaking goalscoring records throughout the year.
Ronaldo became the quickest player to reach 200 goals for Madrid, doing so in a record 197 games and ended 2013 with a remarkable 62 goals from 52 appearances and, given that his usual antagoniser Messi has had injury problems towards the back end of the year, this will no doubt be his best chance in recent times to overturn the form book.
But Messi will still be in with more than a decent shout of yet again retaining an award he has become synonymous with. His goals in La Liga were the main reason Mourinho left Madrid without back-to-back league titles.
It may have not been his most fruitful year by his own standards, with a court case surrounding tax fraud also drawing headlines off the pitch for the first time in his career, but Messi’s standards eclipse those of almost every other footballer and he could easily be celebrating a fifth straight award with his usual modesty today.