In Depth

Why Cristiano Ronaldo must beat Messi to the Ballon d'Or

Real Madrid superstar is expected to end his rival's reign as the world's best footballer tonight

CRISTIANO RONALDO is tipped to end Lionel Messi's four-year reign as the 'world's best player' tonight and if the Portuguese star does not win Fifa's coveted Ballon d'Or award in Zurich it will be a "travesty". In a year in which Messi's standards have dipped because of injury Ronaldo "seems to be getting quicker, faster, stronger", says Jamie Redknapp in the Daily Mail. During 2013 the Real Madrid player scored 66 goals in 55 games and notched up eight hat-tricks, he notes. "This year, he deserves it more than Messi... He surely cannot miss out again." Ronaldo's remarkable hat-trick for Portugal against Sweden in the World Cup play-off should be enough to win him the trophy, says Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph. "Here was a classic case of one man in a 22-player game deciding to make something happen and possessing the talent to bend a huge narrative to his own will." He also feels sympathy for the Portuguese star, who suffers from constant comparisons with Messi. "There is a trace of cruelty... in Ronaldo having to share the stage with a rival whose gifts are perhaps more dazzling but no more lethal." Playing second fiddle to the Argentine has served one purpose, though: "to drive him on, to provide fuel, from anger, and to accentuate the sense that he has a harder job at Real Madrid than Messi's at Barcelona," argues Hayward. The campaign for Messi to win a fifth successive award has been stalled by injury, while few believe Ronaldo's other main rival, Franck Ribery, deserves the crown despite being the fulcrum of Bayern Munich's all conquering 2013 side. The crown will be Ronaldo's says Eurosport. "A player who has always been fired by the ambition of being the best in the world is to once again receive the adulation he feels he is owed," says the website, before noting: "Ronaldo's is an ego that needs to be fluffed." And that is Ronaldo's problem, says Ian Hawkey, also in the Telegraph, and it explains why the fans prefer Messi. The Argentine "simply comes across as less self-regarding, less envious, less easy to goad by pricking his vanity". However, Ronaldo's time is now. "This is the moment when the brightest star in Real Madrid’s glittering sky finally receives the recognition he believes he has been denied," says Rory Smith of The Times. However, he says, this year's vote has been tarnished by Fifa's decision to extend the voting period, a decision many saw as an attempt to generate support for the Portuguese. "The irony is that, if [Ronaldo] is to win, he will do so in exactly the same way as he suspected Messi always has: through an institutional prejudice, a structure designed to ensure his eventual victory," says Smith.

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