For the first time in a couple of years the race to be crowned the Ballon d’Or winner was up in the air for 2013. After careful deliberation and a close voting process, Cristiano Ronaldo beat Lionel Messi and Franck Ribéry to the illustrious crown, winning it for the second time.
After success in 2008, the Real Madrid attacker has had to watch on as he has been deemed second best, with Messi claiming the accolade for four straight years between 2009 and 2012.
However, an emotional Ronaldo pegged back his personal rival in Zurich yesterday, and was correctly named as the top individual in the sport for 2013. The Portuguese forward claimed 27.99% of votes compared to the Barcelona star’s 24.72%, with Ribéry winning 23.36% of the backing.
There was certainly a case for all three contenders to win the crown, but over the course of the year Ronaldo is deserving of top spot.
The former Manchester United man netted an incredible 66 goals in 56 matches during the period in question – which is more than the other two managed combined (65).
In a transitional Real Madrid struggling with the weight of expectation that La Decima brings and losing out in their perennial wrangle with Barcelona domestically, Ronaldo has been the shining light. Although past Ballon d’Or’s have been awarded to players who have spearheaded their team to success, the fact that Ronaldo has won it in a year that his club did not pick up any silverware is a testament to the 12 months that he has had.
His pace, power and accuracy have been unrelenting, with the 28-year-old making a significant impact virtually every time he took to the pitch. Over the course of the 12 months, Ronaldo showed the most consistency and can be deemed as the best player in world football in 2013.
His exploits in ensuring that Portugal overcame the stubborn challenge of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Sweden in the World Cup play-offs played their part in tipping the scales to Ronaldo’s advantage. In a 4-2 aggregate win, the superstar scored all four goals, including a memorable hat-trick in Stockholm. A World Cup without Ronaldo was simply not an option for the new Ballon d’Or holder.
However, both Messi and Ribéry will feel that they had valid cases to win the accolade ahead of Ronaldo.
With Bayern Munich steamrollering allcomers both domestically and on the continent last season, Ribéry was, and is, the club’s attacking talisman. Michel Platini has aired his frustration and disappointment that his countryman did not win the award, and points out that in the past the success of the individual’s team has been taken into real consideration.
The truth is that given the opportunity, few would select Ribéry as their star player over the other two, but his role in Bayern’s dominance made him a worthy candidate for the Ballon d’Or.
In my eyes, Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. If all three contenders are fit, firing and at their best, the Argentine is the pinnacle performer in the sport. However, the Barcelona man has struggled with debilitating injuries this term and over the course of 2013 Ronaldo was consistently better.
While Ribéry may well drift back into the chasing pack, Ronaldo and Messi will continue their personal rivalry for years to come. The 2014 Ballon d’Or running is already underway, and with the World Cup less than six months away the exploits of the supremely talented duo in Brazil will not only play its part in deciding the next winner and the competition, but has the ability to propel one or both into the sport’s folklore.