Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or win shows that the football world still appreciates individual brilliance.
Without a doubt, 2013 was Cristiano Ronaldo’s year, and this fact was finally cemented on Monday as he clinched the Ballon d’Or for the first time since 2008; wrestling it off four-time winner Lionel Messi in the process.
In the end, it was impossible for the award to go to anyone else; after all, the Portuguese maestro ended 2013 with a quite astonishing 66 goals in 56 games for club and country. Strong claims were made for Franck Ribery – the sole member of the trio nominated for the award who was a current European champion – but in the end common sense prevailed and the trophy was handed to Ronaldo.
It is safe to assume that this award meant an awful lot to Ronaldo, and as he broke down upon collection of the trophy, one had to ponder why it has taken the Real Madrid man so long to win this accolade again. The simple answer of course is that despite being one of the most high profile athletes in the world, over the last four years Ronaldo has increasingly had to play second fiddle to Messi.
What has not helped Ronaldo’s cause is the Barcelona dominance of Spanish football. Despite his monumental trophy haul during his time in the Premier League, Ronaldo has lifted the La Liga trophy only once. Since arriving in Spain, Ronaldo has been forced to watch Barcelona and Messi lift the trophy three times as well as winning the Champions League; a trophy that has eluded him since his United days.
Although the Ballon d’Or is an award that recognizes individual brilliance, one can understand why Messi has usurped Ronaldo so many times. The Argentine is brilliant in his own right of course; but he also plays for a team that has proved itself to be superior to Ronaldo’s. Quite simply, it’s difficult to suggest that the title of world’s best footballer should be given to someone who has not even won a big trophy in the last year.
It is difficult to suggest, but perhaps therein lies the true magnitude of Ronaldo’s achievement this year. The Portuguese saw off a European champion and a Spanish champion to win the award; and this tells us that what Ronaldo did in 2013 was truly stupendous. If in doubt about who to vote for, one might think that the easiest thing would be to vote for the player who won the most. That Ronaldo has risen above that and put in performances that have forced the voter’s hand is nothing short of remarkable, and marks the first time that the award has gone to a player not winning a major trophy since his fellow Portuguese Luis Figo in 2000.
The bad news for Ronaldo – if indeed there can be bad news in the wake of such a triumph – is that although he has seen off the competition of Messi for the first time in five years, the chances are that the Portuguese will be forced to compete with him for the rest of his career. Two years his junior, Messi is likely to be around for at least as long as Ronaldo; and given that he plays for the superior team in Barcelona, the chances are that the Argentine will have his day once more; most likely at the expense of Ronaldo.
But for now, Ronaldo should enjoy his moment. There’s no doubt that the frenzied competitiveness clearly present between himself and his Barcelona rival has improved both of their games. Both players are so prodigious in their skill that they have the ability to singlehandedly win games, and win games by scoring quite preposterous goals too.
In a football world that has become increasingly more highbrow – with trequartistas, false nines and inverted wingers becoming the norm as opposed to exception – it is refreshing to see two players of such outstanding skill win games with sheer brilliance. This is why we watch football, and we should all be grateful for the intense rivalry between these two players that has brought us so much pleasure. This round goes to Ronaldo, but there’s no way Messi’s out cold. Long may the fight continue.