The Ballon d’Or is perhaps the most prestigious individual award in the sports realm. Every player in the world is eligible to be nominated, and any of these players can win so long as he fulfills one requirement: be the best player in the world the previous year.
All players have that mindset. They want to be the best at what they do, but some are just destined to shine. And their hard work, raw talent and dedication puts them above the rest. This is a competition designed for heroes of the game, but where there is a hero, there is always a villain.
Over the last four years the players, coaches and journalists have voted Lionel Messi the world’s greatest player four years in a row; a feat that had never been achieved. During those 4 years the last person to win the award before Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, came in second 3 times and has been cast as somewhat of a villain. There has been a tireless debate amongst soccer analysts, fans, players, legends, and pundits regarding the little genius and the sultan of the step-over. This argument concerning which player is better transcends the rivalry of their respective clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid and overshadows the blatant fact that we are witnessing two phenomena in action the likes of which haven’t been seen since Pele and Maradona.
Many would describe Ronaldo, the mercurial Portuguese forward, as arrogant, selfish, a diver and a pretty boy. While there is a certain air of arrogance to him, this is something that comes with the territory of being a living legend and he has surely earned the right to stick his nose in the air a little.
Nobody in the modern game works as hard as Ronaldo. The skill was always there, but when the slim 18-year-old joined Manchester United from Sporting CP in 2003, he began to undergo a series of developments that would bring out the player we have come to know today. Ronaldo honed his skills while playing alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane, who helped the young star to find composure. He slowly filled out his 186cm frame without sacrificing his speed or quick feet, and a physical specimen was born within just a few years of his Red Devils career.
In 2006 he broke onto the top-scoring scene as the league’s third highest scorer with 17 goals. And in the subsequent year, he exploded with 31 goals, which led the league. In 2008, he scored 18 goals, which was second in the league and he hoisted his 3rd consecutive league trophy as well as winning the Ballon d’Or before leaving on a record setting transfer to Real Madrid.
Since 2009, Ronaldo has scored 30+ goals every season and has scored 50+ goals three years in a row. He was the first player to reach 40 goals in two consecutive years. He’s the fastest Real Madrid player to reach 100 goals and he has taken the 7 shirt from legends such as Beckham and Raúl. He has won the league once with Madrid and has amassed a mind-boggling amount of personal accolades. Simply put, he is an astounding player and one of the most complete players to ever play the game. He, like Lionel Messi, is light years ahead of his fellow footballers, but he has been unfairly judged by fans, pundits and even the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, whose comments about Messi being a “good boy” and Ronaldo being a “general” and spending more time on his hair weren’t received well by Portugal and Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez.