Cristiano Ronaldo Will Win Ballon d'Or, Announces Legend Pele

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2014

In a bid to finally dethrone Lionel Messi from his perch, Cristiano Ronaldo enters Monday evening's Ballon d'Or Award ceremony as the favourite to rake in football's highest individual honour, per Oddschecker.

And in the buildup to the announcement, Brazilian icon Pele has proclaimed that it will be the Real Madrid superstar who triumphs, beating rivals Messi and Franck Ribery to the prize.

Spanish daily newspaper AS (h/t DNAIndia.com) quotes the Brazil and Santos legend giving his full backing to the Portugal stalwart, saying upon his arrival in Switzerland on Sunday: "The principal award will go to Ronaldo."

The path seems paved for Pele's prediction to come true following a stunning year for Ronaldo, whose statistics in 2013 are unrivalled.

The 28-year-old's claim to the award is solely based on individual achievement, which is surely the criteria on which the Ballon d'Or should be based. His Real Madrid team won nothing over the last 12 months, and yet Ronaldo has shone like never before.

Ribery represents the antithesis of that formula, winning a European and domestic treble with arguably the strongest Bayern Munich team of all time, and finding himself at the pinnacle of 2013's strongest team by some margin.

Messi, on the other hand, missed a large chunk of the year due to injury. Nevertheless, he is the middle ground of his two rivals, producing better individual stats than Ribery and winning more silverware than Ronaldo.

The timing of the four-time winner's injury, which cut short the end of his year, is likely to see the accolade head elsewhere.

Ronaldo's 66 goals in 56 games for both club and country in 2013, per Transfermarkt.co.uk, is of course the statistic that shines brightest.

A sizeable 32 of those scores came in the first half of the 2013-14 season, indicating that despite his individual brilliance in the previous campaign, the forward is showing no signs of slowing down in his pursuit of further silverware.

However, there are further aspects to the sensation's bid for the award, as shown in a graphic posted by Paddy Power:

Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl says the decision to give Ronaldo the award "isn't hard":

Of course, some controversy will be remembered in the shape of FIFA's decision to extend the Ballon d'Or voting back in November, per Goal.com.

This allowed the final World Cup qualifiers to be taken into account by those registering their allegiances and, conveniently so, included Ronaldo's sparkling one-man demolition of Sweden, a marquee moment for the attacker—his masterpiece ending in many ways.

However, even without that advantage, Ronaldo is a deserving victor. He has relentlessly lifted Real Madrid, helping them stay competitive alongside Barcelona despite boasting an inferior starting XI.

Pele's words are merely the latest vindication of Ronaldo's quality, one legend giving his blessing to another prior to Zurich's big event.

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