Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann have a late chance to enhance their cases for the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world in 2016 when Real Madrid travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Both are frontrunners along with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi among a shortlist of 30 for the prize, but Ronaldo is the strong favourite for his fourth Ballon d’Or having beaten Griezmann in the finals of the Champions League and Euro 2016.
AFP Sports looks at a spectacular year for two of Europe’s finest forwards.
– Griezmann strikes first blood –
Whilst Real have reigned in three Champions League meetings between the sides in the past three seasons, Atletico have dominated the derby for the last three years in La Liga.
Griezmann slotted home a brilliantly taken winner as the red and white side of Madrid celebrated a 1-0 win at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu in the last league meeting between the sides in February.
– Ronaldo spot-on –
Despite scoring just twice from open play in his last 13 games against Atletico, Ronaldo has remained perfect from the penalty spot.
For the second time in three seasons a Champions League final ended with Ronaldo scoring from the spot to vanquish a desolate Atletico as Real edged their 11th European Cup in a shootout after a 1-1 draw in May.
Griezmann also netted into the shootout in Milan, but was left to regret smashing the bar with a penalty in normal time that could have delivered Atletico their first European crown.
– Griezmann’s Euro star shines brightest –
Griezmann shrugged off that disappointment in style as he carried the hopes of host nation France all the way to the final of Euro 2016.
He even had to deal with the blow of being dropped after a disappointing opening night performance against Romania.
However, he came off the bench to net a 90th-minute opener against Albania and never looked back as six goals, including a famous double against old foes Germany in the semi-final, won Griezmann the Golden Boot.
– But Ronaldo has last laugh –
In contrast to Griezmann’s stunning tournament, Ronaldo endured a rollercoaster of emotions in France. From throwing a reporter’s microphone into a lake and missing a crucial penalty against Austria, he came good just in time with a double against Hungary that ensured Portugal didn’t suffer an embarrassing group stage exit.
Instead, they went on to win their first major international tournament, despite Ronaldo scoring just once more, in the semi-final against Wales.
Ronaldo even had to watch Eder’s winner to stun France from the sidelines having hobbled off early in the final in tears after suffering knee ligament damage.
– Both cash in till 2021 –
On the back of his Euros success and with Atletico finally strong enough financially to resist mega offers for their star players, Griezmann cashed in with a new contract to keep him tied to Los Rojiblancos till 2021.
Once again, though, Ronaldo went bigger and better with his new five-year deal signed earlier this month securing his position as the world’s highest-paid sportsman.
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