Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has topped a UEFA poll in which the governing body asked supporters to vote for the greatest goalscorer to ever grace European Football’s premier competition.
The Portuguese maestro received 26 percent of the overall vote, edging out Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, who finished second with 25 percent:
All season we've been asking you: Who is the best forward to have graced Europe's top club competition? The winner: http://t.co/ppWkDv7PJn— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 6, 2014
Ronaldo is enjoying a scintillating season in the Champions League this year, one that has seen him net an incredible 16 goals in just 10 appearances, per WhoScored.com. His forward displays of dynamism and incisiveness have facilitated Real Madrid’s passage through to the final, where city rivals Atletico stand between them and a 10th European crown.
Here are some of the best moments from his superb season so far:
You suspect that with Ronaldo’s European heroics still fresh in fans' memories, a vote like this was always going to see him emerge the winner ahead of not only Messi but also legends such as Raul, Eusebio and Alessandro Del Piero.
The 29-year-old won this competition with Manchester United back in 2008. But adding a second European Cup to his resume during a season in which he scored a record amount of goals would surely cement his status as one the Champions League’s greatest players of all time.
He'll be desperate to become part of Real Madrid's history in helping the club achieve the "decima," especially when you consider that Messi and Raul have won three European Cups each.
Ronaldo’s 16-goal haul in the 2013-14 season is unprecedented, and there is still one game to go. Bet365 documents his stunning season in the competition to date:
Cristiano Ronaldo's Champions League 2013/14 record. Can he become the greatest player of all time? pic.twitter.com/CMbwPzEJOb— bet365 (@bet365) April 30, 2014
Another goal and another final win would be the coup de grace on what has already been a fine season for the player. The former Manchester United man already has a Copa del Rey medal from this campaign, and he could yet finish the season with La Liga and Champions League medals in his back pocket too.
Messi, by contrast, could end the season with nothing. The Argentinian has had his campaign punctured by loss of form and fitness issues, and Ronaldo has overtaken him as the world’s best player in the eyes of many. Ronaldo ended Messi’s four-year streak of Ballon d'Or wins when he picked up the award back in January, per BBC Sport.
Ronaldo could yet finish the season with three major trophies and the highest individual accolade in the game. But this summer’s World Cup could go a long way in determining the eventual legacy left by both the Portuguese captain and Argentina skipper Messi.
Neither player will get a better chance to play at a World Cup in his peak years, and both are capable of dragging their sides through to a strong finish—maybe even to victory.
Much will be expected of Messi given the familiarity he and his teammates have with the suffocating South American humidity, unlike Ronaldo’s Portugal. But Ronaldo has already showcased his ability to galvanise his team when donning the Portuguese strip, netting four times in the two playoff games with Sweden to pave his nation's passage to the Brazil finals.
A World Cup win for either would certainly accelerate ascension to the top of the football greats and give us another fascinating facet to the debate that rages on between the two players.