Cristiano Ronaldo: Does he deserve the Ballon d'Or?

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As the goals flew in, the consensus consolidated, give Cristiano Ronaldo the Ballon d'Or right now.

Twitter can be a dangerous place on nights like yesterday evening. People live in the moment, social media is all about immediacy - whether it's a war zone, a protest, a march, a football pitch.

So as Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly hauled Portugal to next summer's World Cup, the temptation for many was too great. It was Zlatan v Ronaldo, then it was just Ronaldo. Two goals in two minutes sent Twitter into overdrive.

He simply had to win. Anything else was a conspiracy. Probably led by Sepp Blatter. That Messi-loving evil genius.

Hang on though, it's not won on any single performance. Sorry to get technical for a second, but as the Rules of Allocation Art. 2 states, the Ballon d'Or "rewards the best, without distinction of championship or nationality, for their respective achievements during the 2013 calendar year."

So, with the voting still open and the presentation looming, lets consider the three frontrunners.

Up to now, Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery has been many people's favourite. His achievements this calendar year stand as follows: Champions League winner, Bundesliga winner, DFB-Pokal winner, UEFA Super Cup winner, UEFA Best Player in Europe award winner.

That last one has led many to pronounce Ribery the most likely Ballon d'Or champion, but as Andres Iniesta proved last year, it doesn't always work out that way.

The Ballon d'Or rules don't mention team versus individual achievements, instead just "achievements". That suggests both are taken into account.

Of course, it terms of sheer individual production, Ribery can't touch Messi or Ronaldo.

Here's the goals and assist figures for the three favourites in 2013...

Ronaldo | 66 goals | 15 assists | 56 appearances

Messi | 45 goals | 14 assists | 46 appearances

Ribery | 20 goals | 20 assists | 49 appearances

Many argue if Ronaldo doesn't win it this year, he never will - a not so subtle suggestion that FIFA favour Messi.

Sepp Blatter's recent speech didn't help, but Ronaldo's reaction was equally embarrassing. So petty, so unnecessary, and from a multimillionaire footballer it just felt like a spoiled kid upset at his dad.

Because let's be honest, the conspiracy theory - like most - is pretty rubbish. And like Occam's razor, the simplest answer is probably the right one.

Why did Ronaldo not win the last four Ballon d'Ors? Because Messi was better than him.

No FIFA conspiracy. Just a rival nominee who scored 91 goals in a calendar year.

This year though, it's Ronaldo or Ribery. Messi's injury problems hurt his candidacy, and he has not matched the incredible heights of 2012.

But you cannot lose the Ballon d'Or, you only win it.

For American readers, it's like the Heisman Trophy in College Football. You need *that* performance that convinces the voters it's your year. It seems like Ronaldo got that last night. His Heisman moment.

The rules basically leave it up to the voters to determine what they value more - individual statistics or overall accomplishments.

On the one hand you've got an individual that scores more goals a season than entire Premier League teams but on the other you've got the best player on the best team that won all the trophies.

So where do we stand? Well, the Ballon d'Or is an individual prize, so individual achievements should carry more weight. As good as Ribery was, he simply can't match Ronaldo for output.

The fact it's this close reflects the Frenchman's brilliance in an all-conquering Bayern Munich side.

But it's the Portuguese who's enjoyed the outstanding 2013. 

There's a school of thought on Twitter that suggests it's most useful in the immediate aftermath of an event - the first 30 seconds to five minutes when it's pure breaking news and the reaction is raw.

Anything longer and it's all just white noise. The event gets hijacked by agendas, people shout louder and louder as the hours pass and it's not useful anymore. And then we get the memes.

Perhaps last night proved that true. Perhaps this is Ronaldo's year.

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Franck Ribery
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo

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