Together they have dominated and brought more significance to an individual accolade than ever before however; as Lionel Messi collected his fifth Ballon d'Or yesterday there was a sense of normality restored.
Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's staggering goalscoring exploits - he's scored 338 goals in just 324 games for Real Madrid since his move from Manchester United in 2009 - he has rarely broken the widespread recognition of Messi as the world's greatest player despite his three Ballon d'Ors.
There is no shame in this: Messi will go down as one of the greatest players in football history and whilst Ronaldo will not be ranked far behind him, the gulf may widen as the Portuguese captain nears 31 next month.
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Such has been Ronaldo and Messi's dominance over the rest of the football world in recent years the Ballon d'Or has adopted new found significance as the only award to differentiate between the two on an annual basis. Since 2008 these two arch rivals have shared the award in the ultimate two horse race and whilst Messi is showing no signs of slowing down, Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or winning days may have come to an end.
Following Barcelona's incredible 2014/15 season that saw them win an historic treble in coach Luis Enrique's first year, there were many who argued Ronaldo was fortunate to be shortlisted last night in favour of Luis Suarez. In combination with Messi and fellow nominee Neymar, Suarez completed one of the most deadly forward lines in history last season, who together contributed 122 goals.
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Though his numbers are still phenomenal - the forward has scored 25 goals in 25 games this season and whilst he continues to break records, he recently recorded 11 goals in the Champions League group stage - Ronaldo's influence both on big games and within Real Madrid seems to be waning.
Five of Ronaldo's 14 La Liga goals this season came in a 6-0 thumping of Espanyol, whilst the former United legend failed to score in Madrid's defeats - to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, or their recent draw with Gary Neville's Valencia. In comparison prior to him winning his third Ballon d'Or, Ronaldo had scored 26 La Liga goals by this point last season including strikes against both Barcelona and Valencia.
On the back of recent defeats former manager Rafa Benitez has been fired, in all likelihood to Ronaldo's relief, however; the dynamic is certainly evolving at Madrid.
In new incumbent Zinedine Zidane's first game in charge, record signing Gareth Bale was granted additional freedom in a 4-3-3 formation and responded with a devastating hat-trick in a 5-0 win.
Bale was one of Benitez's biggest advocates- he stated last week “I had a very good relationship with Rafa. Obviously, it was a big disappointment to see him go". The Spaniard was planning to build the new-look Madrid around the 26-year-old Welshman and though Benitez became the latest managerial casualty last week, there is every chance Zidane may share the same plan.
Despite united's constant advances, reports suggest that as long as he is backed Bale is determined to make things work in Madrid and whilst the Welshman may never match Ronaldo's exploits as the "greatest goalscorer in the history of the game", as stated by Guillem Balague, he could certainly lead Los Blancos' new and probably more balanced attack.
Balague has long argued Ronaldo has reached his peak, back in September in his weekly column for SkySports he wrote: "I just keep thinking that we've seen the best from him", and though the 30-year-old's place in history is secure, his future looks increasingly hazy.
Ronaldo expects a team to be built around him, he was visibly irked by not scoring at the weekend, and may decide that will only be possible at a different club.
PSG and Manchester United will be just two of Ronaldo's numerous admirers should he decide that his career with Los Blancos has reached its end, however regardless of who signs him, it seems unlikely that they will be welcoming the world's best player.
Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo will ever win the Ballon d'Or again?
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