Cristiano Ronaldo: Why the Player We Love to Hate Deserves the Ballon d'Or

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Cristiano Ronaldo: Why the Player We Love to Hate Deserves the Ballon d'Or
David Ramos/Getty Images

In every sport there are a select number of athletes who attract everyone’s attention. Whether through superior skills, God-given talent, showmanship or simply their innate ability to attract controversy, these athletes dominate the spotlight and become the focus of much of the fanbase.  

Fans either love them, in which case they constantly shower praise on them and reflexively justify any decision they make, whether on the field or off, or they harbor an irrational hatred toward them, to the point of being unable to acknowledge any good thing about them.

Whatever it is—and it’s most likely different in each case—there’s something about these players that prevents cool, objective evaluation.   

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid C.F. is one such athlete.

The ambipedal Portuguese superstar is indisputably one of the best footballers in the world. His scorching pace, hypnotic footwork and swerving "knuckle-ball" shots make him a player that defenders dread to mark. Simply put, there doesn't seem to be anything that he can't do with a football.  

At the end of every calendar year, football’s most prestigious individual award is handed out to the top performing player of the previous season. The award is based on votes from coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists and other members of media from around the world.  

The FIFA Ballon d'Or, or "Golden Ball," has been won by F.C. Barcelona forward Lionel Messi for the last three years. Along with Ronaldo, the 25-year-old Argentine is viewed as one of the premier players in the world, often drawing comparisons to former Argentine great Diego Maradona.  

These two are regularly compared to one another, but their personalities and playing styles couldn’t be more different.

On the pitch, Real’s No. 7 plays the game with flash and flair. The same could not be said for Barca’s No. 10—but to his credit, he’s never really needed to. When Messi scores a goal, he crosses himself and points to the sky, giving credit to God. When Ronaldo scores, he’ll throw his hands in the air and then either pound his chest or give the crowd a look that says “Yeah, I just did that!" 

Off the pitch, Messi is just as non-assuming. He's soft-spoken, even shy, preferring to avoid media attention as much as possible. At the other end of the spectrum, the iconic Portuguese superstar is not afraid to parade his ego before the world.

He is recorded as having said, "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great player people are envious of me. I don't have any other explanation."

Cristiano’s confidence—alright, cockiness—has been widely criticized, even ridiculed, and for some, it's enough reason in and of itself to prefer the Argentine.

But style and personality should not be the ultimate arbiters of greatness. After all, being a class act is all fine and good for posterity, but the Golden Ball shouldn't be awarded for humility. The main criteria of the award should be personal performance and winning. Your team wins, everybody's happy.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

You're a great player, even a great team player, but you still can't pull your team to the top of the ladder? The best people will say about you is that you should seek a transfer to a better club. 

Look at NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Two athletes that were only able to rid themselves of their stigma by doing what? WINNING. But unlike the NBA and most pro American sports, there are several titles that can be won during the course of an association football season. 

The most esteemed trophy in European club football is the UEFA Champions League Cup—the competition where only the top teams in their respective domestic leagues are allowed to compete.

After that, the domestic league title is the next highest goal for which teams can aspire.  

But third prize is the equivalent of a set of steak knives. Domestic cups such as the Spanish League's Supercopa and Copa del Rey are important in the sense that they give the team some measure of glory and bragging rights, but let's be honest, neither of these honors—even taken together with a set of Ginsu knives thrown in—can match the honor and thrill of winning Spain's premier La Liga or the Champions League.

Golden Ball voters don't only take club performance into account, but also look at what the player did for his national team. After all, on what grounds do you think Andres Iniesta won the European Player of the Year award?

Xavi must be thinking: "Four years in the FIFA XI, and only NOW they look beyond the numbers?"

So, if voters are willing to look beyond the numbers, why didn't Wesley Sneijder get the nod in 2010? Surely, he deserved the recognition for leading Inter Milan to a title in the Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and the Champions League.

On top of that, he took his native Holland to a World Cup Final against the eventual cup champions Spain. But noooo, the Dutch midfielder didn't even crack the top three.

So how should we pick the "top player"?

The most accurate way to measure who had the "best" season is by creating a point system. I have devised a system wherein players will be awarded points according certain criteria, a point system that balances personal stats and winning.

Below are the three strongest candidates:

Player Name

League Goals/Assists             (2.5 points ea.)

Domestic Cup Goals/Assists (1.5 points ea.)

European Cup Goals/ Assists (3.5 points ea.)

Copa Del Rey (Max. 30 points)

Supercopa España                   (Max. 10 points)

La Liga          (Max. 120 points) 

UEFA Champions League (Max.180 Points)

FIFA Club W.C. (Max. 15 points)

UEFA SuperCup (Max. 5 points)

International Friendly Goals (1 points ea.)

International Cup Qualifying Goals            (2 point ea.)

International Major Cup Goals/Assists           (5 points ea.)

International Tournament (Max. 250 Points)

Total Points:

Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)

73 G/A = 182.5 Points

9G/A = 13.5 Points

26 G/A = 91 Points

Champion = 30 Points

Runner-up = 5 Points

Runner-up = 60 Points

Semi-finalist = 45 Points

Champion = 15 Points

Champion = 5 Points

7 G =7 Points

2 G = 4 Points

N/A = 0 Points

N/A = 0 Points

458 Points

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristiano Roanldo (Real Madrid/ Portugal)

60 G/A = 150 Points

5 G/A = 7.5 Points

14 G/A = 49 Points

Semi-finalist = 7.5 Points

Champion = 10 Points

Champion = 120 Points

Semi-finalist = 45 Points

N/A = 0 Points

N/A = 0 Points

1 G/= 1 Point

1 G = 2 Points

3 G/A = 15 Points

Semi-finalist = 62.5 Points

469.5 Points

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona/Spain)

12G/A = 30 Points

6 G/A = Points

4 G/A = 14 Points

Champion = 30 Points

Runner-up = 5 Points

Runner-up = 60 Points

Semi-finalist = 45 Points

Champion = 15 Points

Champion = 5 Points

2 G= 2 Points

0 G = 0 Points

1 G/A = 5 Points

Champion = 250 Points

465.5 Points

Diagram guide:

  • Stats from 2011 count as long as they went into a competition that was decided in 2012
  • First place in a cup or league receives the maximum amount of points. Second place receives half of the maximum points. Semi-finalist would receive one-quarter of the points for being one of four teams left, etc.
  • International goals are taken only from 2012.

Some may find such calculations too sterile, but this method at least has the virtue of being a more "objective" and thus "fairer" way to measure a player's season.

But is it the right way?

Both stats and team performance are vital in deciding the Ballon d'Or winner, but if all one has to do is crunch the numbers, then an important part of the game gets ignored: intangibles, that perceived--nay, sensed--but largely immeasurable value that a player has for his team.

But no matter which method one chooses, let's be honest: There is no one surefire way to measure how great a player is. And it's probably that reason more than any other that I love sports.

If there was a universally accepted, clearly agreed-upon method for judging worth, there'd be no room for conversation. No great debates or, for that matter, the "lesser" debates of name-calling and loud-mouthed, empty-headed bluster that make up the other 99 percent.

But the point still stands: Sports are a human endeavor, and if it were just a matter of mathematical calculation, there would be no room for different evaluations, different criteria for evaluations, and, plainly stated, different values; we survive by judging our world and the creatures and things in it: good/bad, friend/foe, delicious/poisonous.

 

And what is athletic competition if not a field for judgement and comparison?   

To some, professional football is just a game. To others, it is an evolving myth, filled with tribes, heroes and villains, ever growing, ever changing.

If you were given a vote, who would you pick to win the Ballon d'Or?

Submit Vote vote to see results

It is not just about loyalties; it's about deeply held ideals; it's about personal values, and yes, let's be honest: much of this is fantasy and projection. But those are core aspects of our existence. Through their personalities and playing styles, Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldo each appeal to different human qualities that we weigh differently, and all stand as strong Ballon d'Or contenders, but at the end of the year, only one will have his name etched on that golden sphere.

My vote goes to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Not because I think he's a nice guy (hell, I bet his mom can't even say that with an untroubled heart), not because of the way he plays, but because of how his performance on the pitch has translated into club and national team success.

Disagree? Feel free to comment below.

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