Since then, Barcelona star and La Liga rival Lionel Messi has picked up four straight titles and established himself as one of the world's greatest players of all time in the process. After all, no player has ever won four Ballon d'Or titles before, despite some of the great names to have won the award.
Despite that breakthrough success in 2008 when playing at Manchester United, Ronaldo has been incredibly unlucky when it comes to the Ballon d'Or.
He finished second to Kaka in 2007; he finished second to Messi in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Were it not for the Argentinian maestro, the history records would have the Real Madrid superstar as the only man to have won four Ballon d'Or titles.
It's not that Messi hasn't deserved the titles, for he most certainly has.
All it does mean is that Ronaldo was born at the wrong time. He achieved greatness in the wrong years, which he may never be truly recognized for in his career.
Yet all of that could well change in 2013.
While it might be a little early to call, the 2013 calendar year is shaping up as Ronaldo's best chance in recent history to triumph over the Argentinian.
2013 could very well be Ronaldo's best chance to beat Messi to the Ballon d'Or, and it starts with the huge chance that the winger has in the Champions League.
With Real Madrid already knocking out Manchester United and setting up a berth in the final eight of the competition, Los Blancos are primed for a strong European run. Unlike Barcelona, who trail Milan by a two-goal margin heading into their second leg—potentially setting themselves up for elimination—Madrid are looking strong and disciplined for a big showing in the final stages of the competition.
Thanks predominantly to Ronaldo, who has netted eight goals so far in the tournament—the most out of any player in the Champions League.
If Ronaldo can lead Madrid all the way to European success this season, he'll likely have a huge advantage over Messi in terms of Ballon d'Or consideration. And at the moment, given the current position of the two teams, you'd have to give him the edge there.
Messi will likely lead Barcelona to the La Liga title this year, and he appears primed to emerge with the European Golden Shoe following his goal-scoring exploits in the process.
That will no doubt stand well with those who make the final call on the Ballon d'Or, but when it comes to La Liga titles or the UEFA Champions League, the Champions League wins every time. Especially when the team in question could well have the Copa del Rey title next to their name also.
Ronaldo has been excellent in the knockout tournament so far and has done very well to get Los Blancos into the final. He helped them triumph over Barcelona at the Nou Camp in an emphatic 3-1 victory, and he has them primed to win the tournament as well.
Messi, and Barcelona, cannot do that.
It's also important to note that Ronaldo and Messi are on a level playing field when it comes to international tournaments in 2013.
2012 saw the European Championships come around, where Ronaldo played and not Messi. 2014 will bring the World Cup, where both will compete, but Argentina will seemingly be more of a threat in the tournament than Portugal. Given the fact that Messi leads their attack, that will bode better with the chances of the Barca striker at the Ballon d'Or than Ronaldo.
Neither Messi nor Ronaldo have the chance to truly shine on the international field this year—meaning that their club success will count for everything.
And given that one is in the Copa del Rey final and in the last eight of the Champions League while the other is on the brink of European elimination, it will suit Ronaldo more. More than any context has suited him in the past four or five years of voting for the award.
Granted, Ronaldo will likely need to win the Champions League with Madrid (or at least make the final) and pick up the top goalscorer award there to be in the running. If he can do the same in the Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid, that will certainly help his cause also.
Messi has dominated domestically, but if Ronaldo can dominate Europe, then he'll one-up his opponent here and give himself more credit for the award.
The 28-year-old superstar hasn't had an opportunity like this against Messi ever since his move to Madrid in terms of Ballon d'Or success. He's never had Messi two goals down in the Champions League and out of the Copa del Rey—all while he leads Europe's elite goalscorers in the UCL.
Given the success of Barcelona and the depth of talent they have, it might also be the last time he finds himself in such a good position to win the award.
Nothing like pressure, is there?
Has Cristiano Ronaldo been better than Lionel Messi so far in 2013?
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