Cristiano Ronaldo wasn't able to pull off a Ballon d'Or upset, as chief rival Lionel Messi captured the coveted award for the fourth straight time. However, the defeat should motivate the Real Madrid superstar to have a monster 2013.
The winner of the FIFA #Ballondor 2012 is Lionel Messi— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 7, 2013
Ronaldo finally scored a major victory in his rivalry with Messi, helping lead the Blancos to a La Liga title and ending Barcelona's reign atop the league. It wasn't enough to overcome the Argentine's goal-scoring barrage, though. He finished with 91 goals across all competitions for club and country.
The 27-year-old Portugal international wasn't able to match those mind-boggling numbers. But it showed him that it's going to take a truly spectacular season in order to wrestle the award away from Messi, who's surely the heavy favorite for 2013.
By now, Messi's dominance must be starting to frustrate Ronaldo, not to mention every other player vying for the prized individual honor. It probably feels like every time they score two goals, he nets three. And that's often the case.
For Ronaldo, it means he must elevate his game yet again. Voters are waiting for somebody to give Messi a serious challenge, at least forcing them to make a tough decision when they cast their ballots. It just hasn't happened.
The Real Madrid striker definitely has the best opportunity to change that. He has finished in the top three in each of the past two years.
Ronaldo certainly appeared to be a man on a mission in his first match of 2013. He was a force in the attacking third against Real Sociedad, unleashing 14 shots and scoring two goals, including the eventual game winner in a 4-3 triumph.
That's what it will take on a consistent basis for the next 12 months in order to end Messi's streak. To keep pace with the Barca sensation, who found the net once in his 2013 debut, there's no room for slumps.
The amount of praise directed toward Messi—almost all of it warranted—should do a lot to fuel the fire of a competitor like Ronaldo. And it's that more than anything else which should push him to new heights throughout the year.
Madrid need him to shine, too. The Blancos are shockingly 16 points behind Barcelona for the La Liga lead following Barca's incredible unbeaten start to the campaign. Chasing them down is a long shot, but Ronaldo must lead the charge.
By now, he understands the challenge Messi presents and what it will take to reach that level. While it won't be easy, winning the Ballon d'Or shouldn't be, despite what Messi would lead you to believe.
Ronaldo is off to an ideal start. Keeping it up for the next 51 weeks is the tough part.