Certain debates—best goalscorer, best overall player, best team, best hair (nevermind, that clearly goes to Zlatan)—will never really be settled.
But there is one thing we can agree on with absolute conviction: In 2013, from a purely individual perspective, there was no better football player than Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese international and Real Madrid superstar was rightfully honored in that respect on Monday, Jan. 13, as he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d'Or. FIFA's Twitter feed confirmed the news and provided a picture of CR7 with his second career trophy:
According to the Associated Press, via Sports Illustrated, Ronaldo finished with 1,365 points in the voting, while Lionel Messi (1,205) and Franck Ribery (1,127) rounded out the top three.
Who should have won?
Normally, this kind of decision would be met with endless backlash, conspiracy theories and lots and lots of internet yelling. Ronaldo vs. Messi is the LeBron vs. Kobe, the Manning vs. Brady or the Cabrera vs. Trout of the soccer world.
Whenever those two superstars' names are included in the same sentence, it tends to bring out the argumentative, everyone-else's-opinion-is-stupid (read: the worst) side of anyone involved. Throw Ribery, the leader of Bayern Munich's unbelievable year, into the mix, and the potential of controversy is taken to a whole new level.
But despite Messi and Ribery's accomplishments, there was never any denying Ronaldo's claim to the prestigious trophy.
Even the Barcelona star himself called Ronaldo a "worthy winner," via Bein Sports:
"He had a great year, so there is nothing else to say. It was a good year for the three of us and that's why the three of us were there. Whoever won it would have been a worthy winner," Messi told reporters in Zurich.
Squawka's Twitter feed reinforced Ronaldo's claim to the honor, comparing the trio via the numbers:
SQUAWKA CARDS: Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi vs Franck Ribery. pic.twitter.com/Q7i64p2yUl— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 13, 2014
Let's not take anything away from the runners-up. Messi may have not approached his silly 91-goal tally from 2012, but 42 goals and 15 assists in 45 games is still otherworldly. Who knows how he would have finished if not for two significant stints on the sideline due to injuries?
Over in Germany, Ribery's goal total may not hold up, but his ability to create chances for others was unrivaled. More importantly, he led the Bavarians to a slew of trophies in 2013, including a historic treble.
Still, Ronaldo is undoubtedly deserving of the award. His production at both the league and international level can't be touched, even when you compare the numbers on a per-minute basis, thus taking Messi's injuries out of the equation.
ESPN Stats & Info gives a look:
Here's one reason why Ronaldo won this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or pic.twitter.com/i8aW1X6iVb— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 13, 2014
The daunting numbers seemingly go on forever. According to ESPN's John Carr, Ronaldo scored a record 15 goals in Champions League play, netted 15 go-ahead goals in La Liga contests and tied Ribery for chances created in the box.
Oh yeah, and to top it all off, he single-handedly sent Portugal to the World Cup with a hat-trick against Sweden in the qualifying playoff:
Every finalist was a finalist for a reason. But in 2013, Ronaldo was simply on a different level.