Cristiano Ronaldo has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or.
The fourth Manchester United player to win the European footballer of the year award, his impact for the club certainly backs up the win.
The Portuguese winger—who recently passed a century of goals for the Red Devils—follows a stellar period in the young player’s short history. Scorer of 42 goals last season to guide Manchester United to both Premier League and Champions League titles, as well as being the PFA Player of the Year, winner of the Barclays Golden Boot, the European Golden Shoe, and of course the UEFA Club Footballer of the year.
He received 446 points out of a maximum 480—only last year’s winner Brazilian Kaka has ever had such an overwhelming victory in the d’Or. He was named as the number one player by 77 of the 96 players polled.
He is the first Manchester United player to win the award since George Best in 1968, who at the time finished possibly the greatest era for the Red Devils, following Denis Law’s (1964) and Bobby Charlton’s (1966) wins in the same decade.
He is the third Portuguese player to have won the Golden Ball after Eusebio and Luis Figo; but naturally despite Sir Alex Ferguson's insistence that there could have been no greater recipient of the award; there are naturally critics as to the winner.
Inter Coach Jose Mourinho was anything but diplomatic in his response to Ronaldo’s triumph, stating that he would have preferred one of his own players to have won the d’Or. While Inter are all but unchallenged in the Serie A this season, Swedish player and Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was shortlisted for the award but did not finish in the top three.
Realistically, the 23-year-old is a deserving winner, not only for his achievements, but for the single reason that there was no overwhelmingly dominant player in the world who was ever going to challenge him for the title.
Italian and Spanish clubs had a overall poor season last year—and while there are a host of English based players who were nominated, with three Manchester and three Chelsea players on the short list—none were in the class of the Red Devils winger.
While seven of the shortlisted 30 players were Spanish; and deservedly so in account to their well earned Euro 2008 triumph—players such as Iker Casillas and Marcos Senna were fluctuating in their form throughout the year.
While Fernando Torres, considered by many the only real challenge to Ronaldo, was selected third in the final standings of the d’Or.
Barcelona player Lionel Messi, the supremely talented Argentinean, was runner up, collecting the silver ball awarded to the second placed footballer in the awards. Of course, years ago, Messi would not have even been considered based on his South American heritage. It is for this reason that Diego Maradona did not win the awards in the late eighties despite his exploits with Napoli.
Messi, who scored the winning goal at the Beijing Olympics final to carry his country to gold medal glory, has been the world’s dominant player since Ronaldo had ankle surgery after Euro 2008.
The Argentinean is still only 21, but he has been instrumental in Barcelona being all but unstoppable this year.
Many would agree that he has two crucial differences to winner Ronaldo. He is a performer at international level, but the Portuguese winner has been long criticised for performances for his country. Who can forget his performances as Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and the most recent European Championship, where he has tended to go missing when required.
It is said that without the magnificent supporting cast that he has at United, he is far from the dominant force many would believe him to be.
But, to be old school, it is the lack of grace and dignity that separates the two best players in the world. Ronaldo does not possess the gravitas and grace that should come with being one of the world’s leading players. He is certainly no mirror image of Pele or Johan Cruyff.
But Messi handles his talent and skills with grace—but being so young in his career and development, we could see arrogance and petulance creep into his character.
However, all critique or posturing aside, Cristiano Ronaldo is a deserved winner and will likely go on to collect the FIFA world player of the year award. Since 2005 the winner of the D’Or has gone on to win the final gong of the season, and likely that trend will continue this year.
Final standings for Ballon D’Or
1st Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 446
2nd Lionel Messi Barcelona 281
3rd Fernando Torres Liverpool 179