Barring a statistical tremor to rival that which rendered erroneous the Chicago Daily Tribune’s front page of ‘Dewey beats Truman’ for the 1948 Presidential election, Cristiano Ronaldo will receive the FIFA Ballon d’Or award in Zurich on Monday evening.
Ronaldo is as little as 1/33 to be crowned the world’s best player for the first time since 2008, when his 42 goals in all competitions helped Manchester United to record a Premier League and Champions League double. At the time those goalscoring statistics seemed outlandish; now they have been rendered merely ordinary.
In the intervening years, the volume of goals expected by a leading forward has increased dramatically. Ronaldo - who has been scoring at at least a goal a game for the past four seasons at Real Madrid – has helped to define this trend, but it is great rival Lionel Messi - whose unbroken run as the Ballon d’Or winner extends to four, but is expected to end on Monday - who has amassed the greater numbers overall.
But not this year. Ronaldo scored 66 in 56 for club and country in 2013, comfortably beating Messi’s 42 in 45 and Franck Ribery’s 22 from 52 – even if the candidacy of the Bayern Munich midfielder is predicated on his unselfish starring role as the best player in the team which steamrollered everyone last season.
Though reports at the start of December claimed a surge of bets suggested Messi would win the award for the fifth year in succession, the Argentina international now appears powerless to prevent Ronaldo from recapturing the individual award that he so craves. A player who has always been fired by the ambition of being the best in the world is to once again receive the adulation he feels he is owed.
Ronaldo’s is an ego that needs to be fluffed. It can sometimes appear as though his team-mates and managers are cowed into following the Ronaldo party line – quickly muttering into a microphone that he must be crowned Ballon d’Or winner for fear of offending the gigantic talent in their midst. Similarly, Madrid tried their level best to say the fee they paid for Gareth Bale this summer did not exceed that of Ronaldo.
It is not just the Portuguese who has had a campaign behind him, though. Ribery and Bayern Munich have been quick to spin in favour of the Frenchman and ensure there is public opinion swelling behind him. Ribery – who said only on Saturday that "I've done everything. It's hard to give more. I've played all the games, won all the trophies and I've been decisive” – even publicly admonished France team-mate Mamadou Sakho when he had the audacity to claim he would vote for Ronaldo.
Ribery’s attempts to get his hands on the trophy – which he claims his wife has already made space for on their mantelpiece; oh the pathos – have more resembled an overly pushy ‘For Your Consideration’ Oscar campaign. Such single-mindedness might seem strange from an English perspective, yet Ribery is of course from France, where the Ballon d’Or trophy, invented by France Football, has greater cultural cachet.
You can certainly make a theoretical case for Ribery – as we have done in this piece delving into each players’ individual stats for the calendar year – as it would be a travesty not to recognise a player from a club which won the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2013.
Meanwhile Messi is probably recognised as the most accomplished player in the world - in terms of the trophies he has won and his pure ability - and perhaps of all time. Yet, counter-intuitively, most people agree Ronaldo will walk off with the trophy.
He failed to win a single trophy with Madrid, but who could question his credentials? Ronaldo scored the most goals and also enjoyed a defining moment of his own which exceeded any other individual achievement of the year: the remarkable hat-trick for Portugal which took them to the World Cup finals at the expense of Sweden in November.
Once FIFA reopened the ballots following that seminal display, the voting was surely decided. All that remains is now is the waiting, and Ronaldo has been waiting for five long years.