Should Cristiano Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or this year?
The Real Madrid vs. Barcelona story has given us another subplot. In fact, it’s a subplot of a subplot, whereby Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s on-field rivalry will once again extent to the Ballon d’Or. Following his excellent title-winning season with Madrid, is Jose Mourinho right to suggest Ronaldo should win the award this year?
It never seemed possible for another player to challenge Lionel Messi for personal accolades in the foreseeable future. No matter how good a rival was against the Argentine forward, it appeared that Lionel Messi would always be destined to be the world’s best.
Ronaldo has run Messi close since the Portuguese forward surrendered the title to the Barcelona man in 2009, and even Messi’s team-mates have given it a good go to claim the title as best in the world. Arguably, there is nothing between the talents of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi besides production in front of goal. Even Ronaldo can claim to equal or better Messi’s impressive scoring records, despite falling short at the end of each year for the award.
But this year might be different, and at the very least it should open the debate a little further than to just suggest Ronaldo was a close second to Messi.
Indeed, Messi was the focal point of Barcelona’s attack last season, and no one in Pep Guardiola’s side could come anywhere near to matching Messi’s output. However, that was one of a number of reasons why Barcelona failed to deliver beyond the Copa del Rey and a few minor trophies. Ronaldo, on the other hand, was the leading performer and scorer in a team with a greater distribution of goals among the team. He soared well above the contributions of his more than stellar team-mates, and he managed to shake the notion that he’s simply not a big-game player.
The talent in the Madrid squad was never something to be questioned, but rather it was a mental aspect that they needed to overcome in order to beat Barcelona. The victory at the Nou Camp last season for Madrid was their first win inside 90-minutes against this Barcelona side, and it helped to seal the league title with less than handful of games left.
Ronaldo’s goal following Alexis Sanchez’s equaliser was a phenomenal announcement on a grand stage. The Real Madrid forward had exorcised a number of demons from prior in the campaign, and it did more than enough to silence the doubters, as well as the Barcelona supporters. Was it enough to take Ronaldo past Messi for the upcoming Ballon d’Or? It was a much-needed addition to an already outstanding campaign.
We were all impressed by Lionel Messi’s five-goal performance in the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen, and normally that would be enough to land him the award once again. But Ronaldo was also impressing on European and domestic battlefields. The Portuguese had turned in an outstanding performance against Sevilla following a hugely disappointing game against Barcelona at the Bernabeu. It wasn’t so much that it was a typical Ronaldo performance that night, but rather it was the manner in which he launched himself and his team away from the bitterness of the previous league game.
A 6-2 drumming of a team who held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp was enough to start Madrid on the road to the title. It was a path that they were led down by the unwavering confidence of their no.7.
Maybe it helps that neither Ronaldo nor Messi were able to win the Champions League this past season, as it certainly levels the playing field. The goals and contributions to both their sides have arguably been equal, but it was Ronaldo who impressed the most and helped to guide his team past a weakened, but still extremely strong, Barcelona side.
Jose Mourinho will naturally be on the look out to favour his own, and there can be little argument against his claim that Ronaldo deserves to be crowned as the best footballer in the world.
More than ever, this is Ronaldo’s best chance of emerging from the shadows of Lionel Messi and staking a claim that he is still good enough to challenge and overhaul the magician at Barcelona.