After playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi for the past few seasons, Cristiano Ronaldo is primed to overtake the Barcelona forward and once again establish himself as the best player in the world.
Ronaldo won the 2008 Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year. Since then, it's been Messi who's found himself on podium, receiving various awards at the end of the year. The Argentinian won the 2009 Ballon d'Or and World Player of the Year, followed by the next three FIFA Ballon d'Ors, after the organization consolidated the two awards.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo has finished runner-up three of the four years Messi has won. It's not as if the difference between the two is all that significant. These are two of the greatest players to have every stepped onto the football pitch. However, even the most ardent of Madridistas have to concede that Messi has had Ronaldo's number.
Ronaldo had his run on top with Manchester United and early into his Real Madrid tenure. Then it was Messi's time as he was scoring boatloads of goals and winning multiple domestic and European titles. Ronaldo was always playing a game of catch-up, whether it was trying to topple Barcelona in La Liga, or out-dueling Messi individually on the score sheet.
Now the cycle has come around again.
I've already gone in depth as to why Ronaldo will be much better under Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti will be a much more reassuring figure for the player than Jose Mourinho was. The Italian has already soothed Ronaldo's ego while simultaneously laying out his expectations for the player, per the Press Association via The Guardian:
Everyone knows that he is a superstar and a great player. The most important thing for the club is that a player of his quality shows the utmost professionalism. That is good, especially for the young players who can see a world-class player working with that attitude. I am not responsible for the renewal of his contract, but it won't be a problem.
Ancelotti will end much of the drama that was swirling under Mourinho and help to right the ship at Madrid. When you combine that with what will likely be a contract extension at the club, it all spells good things for Ronaldo.
He can go out there knowing full well that he's got a manager who will always have his back, and he'll be compensated with what one of the best players in the world should get.
On the other side, Barcelona are in a bit of a mess at the moment.
Whereas Madrid were known as the club with backroom strife, the roles have been reversed. Barcelona are the ones dealing with sniping from former managers and the club president. At the Bernabeu, Madrid have solidified their future in the short term and brought in a very calming influence in the form of Ancelotti.
The players aren't immune to what is going on behind the scenes. Having to replace a manager this close to the start of the season and having his former manager start a divide among supporters will do nothing to help Messi maintain his place atop football.
Then throw in the on-field decisions. The Catalan club has done nothing to address its problems at the back and instead has chosen to spend €57 million on Neymar. Just how he'll fit in with Messi remains to be seen. Both are used to being the alpha male on the pitch, so they could run into problems having to share the spotlight.
Ronaldo hasn't had to deal with any of these problems. He's just focused on bringing the 10th European cup to Madrid and being a better player than he's been in the past. That's a scary thought for any of his opponents.