Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has reached the mountaintop again, how long can he stay there?
As expected, Ronaldo took home the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or on Monday night.
It's the second time he's won the award, with the first time coming back in 2008 as a member of Manchester United's Champions League-winning side.
In what was a very emotional acceptance speech, Ronaldo had this to say, per the Guardian:
First of all I have to say a great thanks to all of my team-mates with the club and the national team. Without all of their efforts this would not have been possible. I am very happy, it is very difficult to win this award.
Everybody that has been involved with me on a personal level I have to thank. My wife, my friends, my son. It is a tremendously emotional moment. All I can say is thank you to everybody that has been involved.
While Franck Ribery boasted the trophies and Lionel Messi had the reputation, the 28-year-old winger was named the best individual player on the planet. ESPN's Paul Carr has a look at Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or resume:
Cristiano Ronaldo's 2013 by the numbers, featuring goals galore: pic.twitter.com/020HiXsrSh— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) January 13, 2014
Given the status and success of the club, you'd think that Real Madrid would boast an array of Ballon d'Or winners. However, OptaJose pointed out that Ronaldo is now only the third player who's won the award after spending the whole of the calendar year in the Spanish capital.
3 - @Cristiano is the 3rd player to win the Ballon d'Or after spending the whole of the calendar year at R Madrid (Di Stefano & Kopa). White— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 13, 2014
The Portuguese captain should bask in his glory now because it could be fleeting. Repeating a Ballon d'Or win seems extremely unlikely.
One of the problems when it comes to attempting a repeat is that you almost certainly have to find a way to top what you've done in the previous year. Voter fatigue sets in, so you need to impress them all over again.
That's a concern for Ronaldo because it's almost impossible for him to repeat that goalscoring record again. He's getting to the point where age is becoming a factor. While slight, a decline should start to set in.
You'd expect that Gareth Bale's importance on the team will grow the longer he's in Spain. That means he'll take a little more of the spotlight away from Ronaldo and make more runs at goal with each game.
Alvaro Morata is also a wild card. The 21-year-old hasn't figured much in the 2013/14 campaign, but he's no doubt a promising talent. By the time the 2014/15 season starts, Morata could be Madrid's primary No. 9 and if that's the case, you'd back him to find the back of the net often, thus taking some of the goalscoring burden off Ronaldo.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo repeat as Ballon d'Or winner in 2014?
Winning a La Liga and/or Champions League title would boost Ronaldo's bid to repeat, but Barcelona remains in the driver's seat league-wise, and Los Blancos continue falling short of "La Decima," so you can't say with any confidence that they're favorites to win this year.
While club form and performance is a factor, so much of Ronaldo's candidacy hinges on winning or at least going deep at the 2014 World Cup.
The competition can do wonders for a player when it comes to the end-of-year awards. That's how somebody such as Fabio Cannavaro ends up winning the 2006 FIFA Player of the Year and Oliver Kahn is runner-up in 2002.
Look at how much the World Cup playoff against Sweden helped Ronaldo. He registered a hat-trick in the second leg and scored all of Portugal's goals in what was a 4-2 aggregate win. From that point on, he was the Ballon d'Or favorite.
The better Portugal do, the more Ronaldo is helped. Unfortunately, history is against both of them.
Bad news for Cristiano Ronaldo & Portugal: no reigning Ballon d'Or winner has ever won the World Cup.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) January 13, 2014
Plenty of other countries are better positioned to do well in Brazil, and they all have worthy candidates to win the player of the year award.
If Brazil win the World Cup at home, Neymar is a virtual lock to win the 2014 Ballon d'Or. The same could be said of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Philipp Lahm, Andrea Pirlo and Mesut Ozil in the event their respective teams win.
Ronaldo would end up out in the cold, as runner-up or third-place finisher.
The final verdict is that the Real Madrid star will undoubtedly hang around in the discussion as the best player in the world, but an underwhelming World Cup showing would sink his Ballon d'Or campaign. Given Portugal's struggles in qualifying, a strong finish is all but assured on that front.
As great as Ronaldo is, reigning supreme again in 2014 looks a bridge too far.