Pitchside Europe

Why Cristiano Ronaldo has to win Ballon d’Or

Individual awards within the realms of a team activity are as curious a phenomenon as they are a counter to the ethos that underpins a sport such as football.

However, world football is currently blessed with some truly outstanding individuals and, as such, they deserve to be recognised.

Despite the glut of talent strutting their stuff across world football, there was little surprise when it was announced that an original list of 23 players for this season’s Ballon d’Or had been whittled down to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery.

In fact, such was the certainty that the aforementioned would be the final three, debate has been raging for weeks as to which of Ronaldo, Messi or Ribery should win the coveted award.

In the midst of this debate, consensus dictates that all three are exceptional footballers but who is best? This is where it becomes highly subjective.

Undoubtedly Messi is the best footballer in general. He is an anomaly - a reactive footballer who plays almost entirely on intuition. In fact, a pretty water tight argument could be constructed that Messi is the greatest footballer of all time.

Messi won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 before adding its successor - the FIFA Ballon d’Or - for three consecutive years and quite rightly so.

But when it comes to this year's award, Messi, is to a certain extent, a victim of his own success. His brilliance has been so mind-boggling these last four years that he is fully expected to perform to a miraculous level on a weekly basis.

When he fails to do so - whether it be via a genuine loss of form, or through a staggered end to a season through injury - then there is disappointment.

If Messi is the best, Ronaldo must be the unluckiest footballer in the world.

In any other era he would be regarded as the best player on the planet bar none, as an insatiable appetite for improvement married with immense natural talent sees the former Manchester United player pulverise teams on a weekly basis.

What of Ribery’s credentials? Surely a player that decorated himself with Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal Cup and Champions League winners’ medals in one year is worthy of being deemed ‘the best’ in that year. Surely success of that nature confirms his superiority?

To an extent, yes - but that caveat only holds if all other things are equal, and they were not.

Bayern Munich were not only the best team over the course of the last year but they were also the hungriest. A cruel 2012 season in which they finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal Cup and the Champions League fed that hunger.

Therefore, the question must be asked, had Ribery been transposed into the Barcelona or Real Madrid team, would they have won the treble?

In all likelihood, the answer would have been no.

If Ronaldo or Messi had lined up for Bayern last year, would that have had a detrimental impact on their treble aspirations, again the answer must be a no. While maybe extremely harsh, Ribery is an extremely good player playing for an extremely good team but is not of the same calibre as Ronaldo or Messi.

The decision, as it has done for the last few years, comes down to a straight choice between Ronaldo and Messi – this time though the decision has to go in favour of the Portuguese.

This is an individual award, and Ronaldo has been the outstanding individual this year. It is his force of will that dictates that this is his year; in fact, it his incredible force of will over the course of the last four or five years that determine he deserves this year’s award.

Having seen his great rival pick the award up for four consecutive years while he has been snubbed, it would have been easy for Ronaldo to settle for second best – he could have sat back and accepted his healthy remuneration and played within himself for one of the greatest clubs in the world but that’s not the Ronaldo way.

According to Infostrada Sports, Ronaldo has scored 67 goals in 56 matches in 2013, including four against Sweden in the World Cup play-offs and a record 14 in Champions League.

Ronaldo feeds on the expectation of a whole nation and one of the greatest clubs in the world and gets better year-on-year. For those reasons, he must be awarded the Ballon d’Or.

He may not be the best ever – that’s almost certainly Messi, especially if Argentina win the World Cup – but he has certainly been the best and most complete player this year.

Marcus Foley