Pitchside Europe

Five moments that won Ronaldo the Ballon d’Or

FIFA crowned Cristiano Ronaldo the world’s best player on Monday evening as he claimed the Ballon d’Or trophy for the first time since 2008, ending Lionel Messi’s run of four consecutive wins.

Ronaldo also pipped Franck Ribery to the prestigious prize, which was awarded in a glitzy gala in Zurich.

But what were the defining moments in 2013 that saw the balance of power tip back in favour of Ronaldo and away from his great rival Messi?

1. Finishing top scorer in the Champions League (May 25)

In a quirk of fate, the Champions League top scorer for the past six seasons has also gone on to lift the Ballon d’Or trophy. Kaka did both in 2007, followed by Ronaldo in 2008 and then Messi four times in a row. Though Ronaldo didn’t quite match Messi’s tally of 14 in 2011-12, his 12 goals was a full four clear of his Liga sparring partner and two clear of finalist and second top scorer Robert Lewandowski. And who is the top scorer this season so far? Ronaldo of course, having scored a record nine goals in the group stages. His form on Europe’s biggest stage made a formidable case.

2. Big mouth Blatter (October 28)

An otherwise innocuous speech to the Oxford Union made headlines around the world when FIFA president Sepp Blatter was caught making a rather derogatory comment about Ronaldo. The Swiss claimed he preferred Lionel Messi and that Ronaldo has “more expenses for the hairdresser”. This typical gaffe had the strange effect of actually humanising the football Adonis and making people feel sorry for Ronaldo. Although Blatter made a swift apology, it was not soon enough for Ronaldo, Real Madrid and Portugal, all of whom made complaints to FIFA. As well as generating support for Ronaldo, it may also have left FIFA with the feeling that it owed him something…

3. Another injury for Messi (November 11)

Messi had already suffered an injury-hit 2013 – notably missing out as Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich – but a fifth muscle problem in the space of six months finally put an end to his efforts for the calendar year, leaving his 42 goals for the year well short of Ronaldo’s final tally of 66. Messi picked up the injury when challenging for the ball with Real Betis defender Jose Caro, and said: “I am sad because I did not expect it. And also annoyed because this is an injury which happened to me just after another.”

4. A sensational hat-trick (November 19)

The performance of a lifetime and a display of individual virtuosity that is almost beyond compare. Having already scored one goal in the first leg of Portugal’s World Cup play-off against Sweden, Ronaldo went to Stockholm and triumphed in his personal duel with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in incredible fashion. The Real Madrid superstar opened the scoring and, affronted by Ibra’s audacity in subsequently scoring twice, promptly netted another two to stamp his authority all over the match and indeed world football.

5. FIFA extends the Ballon d’Or voting deadline (November 20)

With rather curious timing, FIFA announced the morning after Ronaldo’s wonder show against Sweden that they would be reopening the ballot and extending the deadline for Ballon d’Or votes to November 29. The original voting period had closed five days before Ronaldo tore Sweden to shreds but FIFA wanted to encourage more voters to mark their cards having apparently had an underwhelming response. Ribery had been the favourite until FIFA’s sneaky tweak, but then it the Ballon d'Or became Ronaldo's for the taking.