Cristiano Ronaldo is just relentless. Relentless in his pursuit of being the best in the world. And he deserves the Ballon d'Or.
Sure, Lionel Messi saw him off for a few years but Ronaldo kept putting more and more pressure on Messi - and now, he's overtaken him.
Whatever they might say publicly, the two players are fighting their own private battle. Obviously they know that they are the best two players in the world, and each one has driven the other on to greater and great heights. It's been fantastic. I don't ever remember another head-to-head like it in the game. And right now, Ronaldo is clearly the better of the two.
It'd be wrong to say that Ronaldo has broken Messi, but he's certainly set a pace that - for the moment at least - seems to have finally slowed Messi down. The Argentine's injury this year is his first real injury problem - whereas Ronaldo is physically perfect.
Part of that is nature - obviously Ronaldo is 6'3", and there's nothing Messi could do to catch up the size difference between them.
But everything else to do with Ronaldo is through sheer hard work - of that I have no doubt whatsoever. He's worked to make himself perfect: he's not neglected any part of his body, hence the reason he simply doesn't pick up any soft tissue injuries. There's never any hamstrings, groins or calves with Ronaldo - the only time he misses a game is when he's been kicked. And that is all down to him, his desire to be the best he possibly can for as long as he possibly can.
That also comes out in his demand to play every minute of every game: it's all about doing his utmost, and winning his own little battle with Messi. Make no mistake: he wants to leave a legacy.
That duel doesn't matter quite as much to Messi, but the challenge of beating his rival matters hugely to Ronaldo - not that he'll ever tell us that, but he's hugely motivated by it. If Real Madrid and Barcelona were to kick off at the same time, the first thing he'd ask at the end of the game would be "did Messi score?"
In a lifetime of watching football, I've never seen anyone who could match either Messi or Ronaldo - and particularly Ronaldo. There have been amazing physical specimens before - big, strong, fast players - but never with his level of ability and desire. He can never get enough: Ronaldo wants all the records in the book, and leave a legacy that's almost unbeatable.
This coming year will be fascinating when it comes to comparing the two. Ronaldo won't be satisfied with winning this Ballon d'Or, he'll want to go on pushing things further and further.
For Messi, meanwhile, people will be starting to ask if this injury was him paying the price for playing so much, at such a high level, for so long - and we're now wondering if he'll ever be the same again.
I couldn't predict that either way. For my money he's looked sharp since he's been back, but it's a huge challenge keeping up with Ronaldo: having to play all those minutes of all those games, with the constant pressure of trying to score as many goals as his rival. It's not the big games that will catch up with him: it's all those matches when he stays on the pitch until the bitter end despite the fact that Barca might already be 4-0 up, as he tries to notch up another goal or hat-trick.
I've heard people in the big two Spanish clubs saying that it's Messi and Ronaldo themselves who push to play every game. When you add in the training Ronaldo does - and I don't believe that Messi spends as much time in the gym, or practising free kicks - we're talking about a relentless, 24-hour-a-day quest to be the best - and that will play into the Portuguese star's hands.
So I think we might well see a little swing towards Ronaldo in the next few years, where he becomes the undoubted best player in the world.
As for Franck Ribery? He's not even in the picture. What we're doing here is crowning the best player in the world: there's no other criteria.
I can fully understand what they're saying in Germany regarding Ribery. But the Bayern team is not built around one superstar, as Real Madrid and Barcelona are around Ronaldo and Messi. And we cannot deny the fact that Ronaldo and Messi are still a level above anyone else in the world.
Even if we take the Premier League this season, there are some players who are doing really well - Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero - but these two are still on a different level.
Put it this way: if you were a manager suddenly gifted £500 million on condition that you spent it on one player, you'd take Ronaldo - simply because he goes from strength to strength while Messi now has a question-mark about his long-term well-being. 18 months ago I'd have given you a different answer, and I think that's credit to Ronaldo.
I saw a stat this morning, about Antonio Valencia. Since he was brought in to replace Ronaldo at Manchester United, he's scored 20 goals. In that same time, Ronaldo's scored 204.
I've always wanted to know what Manchester United's private thoughts were when they sold him. Did they think "we're getting a good deal here"? Did they think there was no more improvement in him? Or did they realise he'd keep getting better, but just accept that they couldn't keep him at Old Trafford? It seemed at the time that United had got good money for him - but from what we know now, it's obvious Real Madrid landed a bargain.
How long can Ronaldo keep going? He's still be a very, very good player for years to come, but age will slow him down sooner or later. You simply can't play at that intensity for 15, 20 years. That is impossible.
But that's a question for the future. For now, he's sensational, and amazing player and a great ambassador for the game. And he's a fully justified choice as best player in the world.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Lionel Messi