Cristiano Ronaldo is the man who divides opinion unlike Lionel Messi, whose almost innocent looks combined with breath-taking skills, make him one of the most popular footballers in the world right now. Ronaldo will probably be a close second.
This is unlikely to worry the former Manchester United star, who is known to care about the way he looks as much as his goal records. However, Ronaldo clearly plays second fiddle to Messi in terms of the prized accolades – both individual and collective. For starters, Messi has four FIFA Ballon d’Or awards while Ronaldo has only two.
It is not surprising given that Ronaldo has not only set the goal charts on fire, but he has also led Real Madrid to the crucial 10th Champions League title. It became an obsession for Madrid and their president Florentino Perez.
Ronaldo was not a ‘Perez signing’ as it is believed that former president Ramon Calderon had agreed the £80 million deal that took him to the Santiago Bernebeu from Manchester United. Yet, the prospect of selling Ronaldo, a player signed by his predecessor, would have never crossed the mind of Perez. Such is the astonishing feat that Ronaldo has been accomplishing since 2009. Every season, he has been just getting better and better. After scoring 33 goals from 35 appearances in his debut season, Ronaldo has been scoring more than 50 goals for the past three seasons. His goals-per-game ratio is even better than Lionel Messi and this statistic alone speaks volumes.
Carlo Ancelotti witnessed his star asset once again outshine his teammate by a considerable margin during the weekend. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 rout of Athletic Club. This took his tally to 13 in the league, which is already six better than Neymar in the second place. He has already scored more than twice as that of Messi. Perhaps, this is the year where Ronaldo finally becomes better than the Argentine not just in terms of individual records. The Champions League title was only the second of Ronaldo’s career, but Real still remain favourites for this season’s trophy.
Ancelotti says with confidence that Ronaldo will win the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2014. In the past, Ronaldo may have matched the goal scoring feats of Messi, but he has come nowhere near enough to matching the Argentine’s title count. This time around, the conditions seem to perfectly suit the Portuguese. He won the ultimate prize in European football, Champions League, while also winning the Copa del Rey. Not only did he score 51 goals in all competitions, but 17 of them came in the Champions League – a new record. He is now only three short of creating a new Champions League all-time scoring record, which is currently held by Real Madrid legend Raul at 71.
The stage for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2014 appears set to welcome Ronaldo because of Messi’s first season without a major trophy after more than five years. It is incredible to think that after having won more than two trophies on an average, one should also not forget the astonishing 2009 when he won six titles, a long time. For him to finish trophy less with Barcelona and Argentina has put the title on the plate for Ronaldo. If Messi had won the World Cup, which he came close to doing, then it would have been a different proposition.
Since the Ballon d’Or awards are not an end of season affair, Ronaldo has the upper hand going into the next few months. Messi appears to have taken a different dimension in the team whereby he is more of a contributor through assists rather than goals. He also seems to be playing deeper than before. Even though it has said in decline in terms of his goals, Barcelona, as a team, appear to be functioning much better. They are yet to concede a goal after seven matches in the league, which says a lot about the new defensive mentality under Luis Enrique.
The upcoming El Clasico will once again pit these two superstars against each other. There is a danger that Barcelona could end up getting a seven-point advantage, which would be surely unassailable even with more than half of the season remaining. Such a possibility would be damaging for Carlo Ancelotti’s future at the club, but Ronaldo could benefit with the desire to just score goals without having to worry about getting his team win the league title.
A third FIFA Ballon d’Or award appears certain for Ronaldo and it will be only a matter of time before the matches Messi.