Cristiano Ronaldo Wins 2014 Ballon d'Or Award, Beats Lionel Messi, Manuel Neuer

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2015

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Cristiano Ronaldo has been named FIFA's 2014 Ballon d'Or winner, beating Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer to football's most coveted individual prize. 

FIFA.com confirmed Ronaldo's triumph on Twitter:

Following the announcement, Ronaldo thanked fans on Twitter:

This is Ronaldo's second consecutive Ballon d'Or victory and his third overall, as he previously won the accolade during his Manchester United days in 2008. He is now one behind Messi's record of four heading into a year in which Madrid and Barcelona are expected to do battle for La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey trophies.

Despite Messi's record-breaking 2014, in which he surpassed Telmo Zarra and Raul as the top all-time goalscorer in La Liga and the Champions League, respectively, it is Ronaldo who came out on top at Monday's gala.

Both Ronaldo's tremendous individual form and Madrid's team success persuaded the assortment of voters—made up of national coaches, captains and members of the global media—to hand CR7 another crown to cherish.

Twitter account Football Tweet highlighted Ronaldo's outrageous slew of honours throughout the year:

Fan feed RMadridFact also provided a comparison between the Portugal international and Messi:

Ronaldo has scored 31 goals and contributed 10 assists across 22 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League this season, per WhoScored.com. He netted a combined total of 48 strikes and 13 assists during those competitions in 2013-14, highlighting his outrageous knack to have an impact on matches.

His 17 strikes in last season's Champions League set a new benchmark for Europe's top players to try to surpass. That tally coincided with Madrid's long-awaited La Decima win, which saw Ronaldo net the final goal in Los Blancos' 4-1 Champions League final victory over city rivals Atletico Madrid.

One low point of Ronaldo's 2014 came in the build-up to the World Cup. He struggled with niggling injury problems as the club season came to a close and was unable to perform at his best during Portugal's ill-fated stint in Brazil. Ronaldo scored one goal during the tournament, but his nation failed to escape a tough group which included the United States, Ghana and eventual winners Germany.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MAY 24:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring their fourth goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 24, 2014 in Lisbon, Po
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Neuer was a major part of Die Mannschaft's achievement in the summer, while he also played a key role in Bayern Munich's route to Bundesliga and DFB Pokal victory. The goalkeeper's finely tuned sweeper-keeper style—which sees him bomb from his line to tackle incoming threats head-on—aided his quest to become the second-ever stopper to win the Ballon d'Or and the first since Lev Yashin in 1963.

Toni Kroos came to the defense of his club mate Neuer, per Sky Sports (via as.com):

It’s surprising and a little unfair that Neuer finished behind Messi. I thought it would be a close call between Manuel and Cristiano. Manuel Neuer was the best goalkeeper by a long way. Cristiano was the best outfield player. It was between the two of them really. Manuel would have been worthy winner but Cristiano deserved it too.

He didn't succeed, but it's fair to say Ronaldo and Messi share a far more glamorous role within their teams, despite Neuer's willingness to add heart-in-your-mouth excitement to his role. The German's placing in the top three should be celebrated as a victory in itself, such is the difficulty of breaking the other two candidates' grip on the top individual prize.

Indeed, the last time anyone other than Ronaldo or Messi won the Ballon d'Or was 2007. Kaka celebrated that night, but it's been a two-horse race ever since.

Ronaldo has notched one goal and an assist in his three appearances since the turn of the year, one strike behind Messi's return in the same number of games.

Already, such comparisons highlight how the two superstars are destined to clash once more for next year's Ballon d'Or prize.

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