With his fourth Ballon d'Or, Messi has ascended to the heights of Diego Maradona and Pele, possibly passing them in the process.
Ronaldo is the last player other than Messi to win the major awards declaring the best player in the world. In 2008, Ronaldo took home both the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year honors.
This year was probably the closest that Ronaldo has gotten to reaching Messi's level. Had the Argentinian not scored 86 goals, perhaps Ronaldo could have eclipsed him.
Generally, a player must have his team win at least a major trophy to garner some attention.
La Liga seems out of reach for Ronaldo and Real Madrid, but that might not necessarily affect his push for the 2013 Ballon d'Or. Barcelona didn't win anything major in 2012 aside from the Copa del Rey, and that didn't stop Messi
With Madrid's poor domestic form, the club can focus more on winning its 10th European Cup. As this appears to be Jose Mourinho's last season at the Bernabeu, nothing would please him more than to go out with a Champions League medal.
Should the club reach the pinnacle of club football, Ronaldo will be the engine that drives Madrid, and he'll receive most of the credit.
The lack of a major international tournament could help the winger more than it could hurt him as well. He's underwhelmed at times for Portugal. The team has relied on him a little too heavily while not providing enough in the attack.
No matter your opinion of the player, every fan can agree that Ronaldo is one of the hardest workers in the world off the pitch. There are few players as driven as him.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo Win the 2013 Ballon d'Or?
The winger turns 28 in about a month. 2013 could be the last year that Ronaldo has a chance to continue sitting atop the peak at which he stands.
At this stage, it's doubtful that Ronaldo's resume and ability will match Messi. Coincidentally, though, it is Messi's brilliance that will hurt him.
He has set the bar so incredibly high with his immeasurable talent. The extraordinary has become ordinary to Messi, and the unexpected has become the expected.
World football fans are almost at the stage where if Messi doesn't score a hat-trick, his performance is a disappointment.
It is similar to what Spain underwent at Euro 2012. The national team was winning games, but not with the dazzling, flowing attacking movements it had at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
As a result, fans and pundits were decrying Spain for failing to play a recognized striker and deploying Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets in midfield together.
This is what Messi will have to deal with in 2013. The longer you stay on top of the mountain, the more people will want to knock you off.
Ronaldo doesn't have to deal with that kind of pressure. He can sit back while the skeptics try and poke holes in Messi's 2013 accomplishments. This is not to say Ronaldo won't be great, but he'll certainly benefit from that.