When the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner for 2013 was announced as Cristiano Ronaldo, the majority of the footballing world exhaled a large sigh of relief.
His competitors, Franck Ribery and Lionel Messi, had pushed him every step of the way, but there was no doubting the man who deserved to be crowned the best player in the sport for the calendar year in question.
Having continued his ridiculous scoring streak in Spain, and proved that it was possible for him to get even more brilliant than he had in his final two season with Manchester United after all, Ronaldo was not just the peoples’ choice. He was the only choice.
As is to be expected there’s just as much hype surrounding this year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony, never more so than this week following the announcement of the final shortlist.
Keeping up a tradition of never failing to disappoint, 2014’s pool includes superstars who have not only been grabbing the headlines each week at club level, but also those who were able to do so routinely on the international stage at this summer’s World Cup.
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He may not have ticket the latter box thanks to niggling injury complaints, but there’s no questioning the man who once again simply has to be made the bookies’ favourite. It’s the one who already has the crown in question sitting above his head.
That’s right, Ronaldo isn’t just the man of the hour; he’s the only man on the clock. Sure Messi has been revitalised under new coach Luis Enrique, sure Gareth Bale took to Spanish football at the Santiago Bernabeu like a duck to water, sure half the German international squad could have a pretty strong case to the contrary; but none of them have clung on unerringly to the bar of superstardom quite like Ronaldo has.
For the Portuguese forward it seems, impossibly one might add, that the only way is up. Despite having pillaged the Champions League on route to a record-breaking 17 goals in a single season in the competition, and also carrying an extremely handsome record in La Liga, Ronaldo looks more deadly than ever before this term, as is perfectly illustrated by his tally thus far of 21 goals in just 14 appearances across all competitions.
His performances so far for Carlo Ancelotti’s side see them sitting comfortably atop of a potentially difficult Champions League group at the halfway stage, and the way he is ripping apart Spain’s top flight have many believing that he can smash many more records before the campaign is out.
Naturally his competitors’ supporters would be inclined disagree, and in all honesty there’s reason to believe that FIFA may decide to given their most prestigious award out to someone other than it’s current holder.
Take the aforementioned Messi for example, whose form is back to its scintillating best. The Argentine is always going to be a fair shout thanks to his reputation, but this year’s exploits, backed by his impressive display at the World Cup, put him in a particularly strong position.
Or there’s his new teammate Luis Suarez, whose omission from the shortlist tells all that needs to be known of the strength of the lineup. Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze; three more who would find little critics were they to add the Ballon d’Or trophy to their already-bulging trophy cabinets.
For me though it’s a race in which the lead horse has a very huge head start on the chasing pack at the moment. At 30 Ronaldo might soon begin to see a steady decline in his ability to outshine the rest of the world on the pitch, regardless of the stage, but for the time being he is head and shoulders above the rest.