Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici has dismissed suggestions Cristiano Ronaldo can no longer compete with the best players in the world.
Ronaldo finished in third place in the 2019 Ballon d'Or voting, behind winner Lionel Messi and runner-up Virgil van Dijk. The Portuguese didn't attend the ceremony, instead heading to the Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan, where he picked up an accolade for being the best player in Serie A.
Ronaldo has struggled for his best form of late, netting one goal in his last five games. Paratici told Tuttosport (h/t Stephen Creek of Goal) the forward will get back to his best soon: "Cristiano finished? Don't make me laugh. Ronaldo had a knee problem that didn't allow him to perform at his best, but now he's coming back stronger than before."
Paratici also thought Ronaldo deserved the Ballon d'Or after his performances last season and that he should have beaten Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric to the prize in 2018, too:
"For me, Ronaldo also deserved it last season, where he scored  goals in the Champions League, many of which were decisive. Ronaldo also deserved the Ballon d'Or this season. He is a competitive animal. We have made a good investment with him, he has improved all of us.
"We must accept his hunger, it is what distinguishes him from others. Will he remain with Juventus? Of course"
Paratici is not the first big name at Juventus to back the striker, with star defender Giorgio Chiellini saying he believes Ronaldo should have won more individual accolades in his distinguished career:
Messi, who has long been considered the best player in the world alongside Ronaldo, said he was keen to break the deadlock he and the Portuguese previously shared in terms of Ballon d'Or wins:
Ronaldo has been regularly in the running for these prizes, but he will need to improve his form significantly if he's to be a serious contender for the award next year.
Not only is the 34-year-old failing to find the back of the net with his trademark regularity at the moment, Juventus sit in second place in the table behind Antonio Conte's Inter Milan.
Ronaldo will still be confident of making a big impression in 2020, and he's often reserved his best for the second half of seasons.
Not only will he be out to help Juventus win Serie A and the UEFA Champions League, Portugal will be defending their UEFA European Championship in the summer; Ronaldo was an inspirational figure when the Selecao won their first major title four years ago.