Wayne Rooney Wades into Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi Ballon D'Or Debate

Christopher AtkinsContributor INovember 6, 2014

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 21:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United with team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo during the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 Final match between Manchester United and Liga De Quito at the International Stadium Yokohama on December 21, 2008 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has backed his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo to claim this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or award, insisting he has "overtaken" Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo, who has 17 goals from nine league games this season, also broke the seasonal Champions League goalscoring record to fire Real Madrid to that long-awaited 10th title last campaign. 

Asked by MUTV whether Ronaldo would retain his award, Rooney commented: "I think so. He’s had an incredible two or three years, and I think he has certainly overtaken Lionel Messi now as the best player in the world. I’m sure it’ll be difficult to give it to anyone else."

Rooney and Ronaldo famously clashed at the 2006 World Cup, when the Portuguese was accused of helping get his club colleague sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho.

However, that incident aside, the pair generally have a strong relationship and have been highly complimentary of each other in previous interviews.

The pair's one conflict came at the 2006 World Cup
The pair's one conflict came at the 2006 World CupPAULO DUARTE/Associated Press

Ronaldo's unsurprising nomination for the 2014 Ballon d'Or award was announced last week, with the prize once more anticipated to be heading in the direction of either him or Messi.

Indeed, such is the pair's duopoly that the last winner not called either Messi or Ronaldo came back in 2007, when Kaka won after firing AC Milan to European glory.

While Ronaldo may have failed to hit top form at the World Cup and Messi struggled to perform to his best in the 2013-14 season, it is not a situation that is expected to change. Having wrested the award away from his rival last year, Ronaldo is heavily backed to retain his crown, as Oddschecker shows.

For Rooney, it must be a difficult scenario to watch Ronaldo achieve such universal acclaim, with the pair having been regarded so similarly in their early years at Manchester United.

Indeed, it could be said that it was Rooney who was initially ahead of his rival in terms of being able to influence first-team games. Once they returned for pre-season following the 2006 World Cup, though, Ronaldo began to head on an upward trajectory to the very top of the game.

Rooney, on the other hand, could not be said to have greatly improved over the same time period.

The award, which will be announced in December, has taken on increased publicity in recent years as coverage of the game heads much further in the direction of celebrity and star individuals.

Ronaldo and Messi have been enormous beneficiaries of that status change, dominating the media's football agenda worldwide. Rooney has never been quite able to hit such levels despite a success-laden career at Manchester United. For English football, it is a real shame.