Cristiano Ronaldo became the heavy favourite to win the 2016 Ballon d’Or after leading Portugal to glory at Euro 2016.
Though he only played 25 minutes in Sunday’s 1-0 win over France, Ronaldo’s three goals and three assists helped Portugal to their first international success and earned him a place in UEFA’s team of the tournament.
And when you consider the summer his biggest rival for the individual accolade has had, it’s no surprise the bookmakers have given Ronaldo a big lead.
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Lionel Messi had the opportunity to win the Copa America Centenario but missed a penalty as Argentina lost the final to Chile via a shootout. He then upset football fans around the world by announcing his international retirement.
If that wasn’t painful enough, Messi was handed a 21-month suspended jail sentence for tax fraud.
Ronaldo and Messi have shared the Ballon d’Or trophy for the past eight years but never has the competition seemingly been settled by July.
Antoine Griezmann is ready to hand the trophy to the Real Madrid star and so too is the man himself.
Ronaldo has admitted that success in Euro 2016 - which came about thanks to Eder’s winner in extra-time - has boosted his chances of winning the coveted award for a fourth time.
“This victory will help me,” the 31-year-old remarked, per AS, “but I’m not obsessed by it.”
Tears of joy
We have a hard time believing the second part of that comment, but the point remains.
Ronaldo has dedicated his career to being a success and he now has an international honour to go along with the medals he’s picked up at Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The tears of joy told it all.
“I’ve been looking to win [a major international trophy] for a long time now…since 2004,” the Madrid man added. “I’m really happy, it’s one of the best moments of my career.
“I’ve always said that I wanted to win something with Portugal to go down in history and I’ve done it.”
It was redemption for Ronaldo, who was part of the Portugal team that was stunned by Greece in the Euro 2004 final.
There were many question marks over Fernando Santos’s team heading into the tournament but, though they weren’t the best team in France, the Henri Delaunay Cup will forever bear their name.
Having achieved something that Messi hasn’t, we can only hope Ronaldo’s success forces the Barcelona star to reconsider his decision to retire.
Who will finish their careers with more Ballon d'Or titles? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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