The coveted Ballon d’Or award as the most prestigious accolade a player can collect individually is what most football professionals yearn for throughout their careers.
For the last nine years, this glorious prize was shared between two of the world’s best football players Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who asserted their dominance on the elite football stage for almost the entire decade now.
The year of 2016 brought no surprises when it came to Ballon d’Or and its winner since Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo is widely regarded as more than a worthy winner.
Having won his first Ballon d’Or in 2008, Real Madrid and Portugal superstar now has four of the awards next to his name.
Never a figure who enjoys false modesty, Cristiano was quite open about his desire to win the coveted prize over the last few weeks, claiming this is the year he fully deserved to be crowned world’s best.
He was quite right in his assessments and should thoroughly enjoy in success he worked so hard to achieve.
Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a stellar year for both club and country.
With 38 goals and 14 assists in 42 games, Cristiano Ronaldo was also directly involved in the total of 39 La Liga goals in 30 games for his club. He added 13 more for his country, taking the tally to 51 goals in 2016.
This has been Ronaldo’s lowest scoring year since 2008 club-wise, but the best scoring year for Portugal however. Injury played a role in limiting his influence for Los Blancos, but most certainly did not count when it came to winning trophies.
Ronaldo helped his club to the Champions League title, whereas he also achieved the historic success with his country.
Portugal international has 137 caps next to his name and will remember the summer of 2016 as arguably the biggest moment in his career, having guided his national set-up to European crown in France.
Despite the fact injury ruined his chances of making an impact on the pitch during the final match against France, Cristiano Ronaldo was quite vocal on the touchline, guiding his team through the game together with head coach Fernando Santos.
Perhaps it is something that comes with age, perhaps it is due to the player’s maturity, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s attitude changed dramatically over the last 12 months.
And in the absence of clearly defined Ballon d’Or criteria, when five-time winner Messi was labeled more of a man, teammate and a professional than Ronaldo, the attitude seems to be playing an important role in the competition for the most prestigious individual prizes of all.
While most 32-year-old players would be considered and regarded as well past their peak, it become evident betting against Ronaldo would be unwise thing to do as the Portugal international continues to evolve and grow as a player.
There is not much room left for Cristiano to surprise us with new football qualities though, but the attitude and his leadership skills have seen a turn for the best, forcing ever his fiercest critics to reconsider their arguments.
Selfishness was often mistaken for his insatiable desire for success. It would in the past appear that Portugal international had little regard for anyone else other than himself, but Ronaldo looks a changed man, quite different in manners towards his teammates for the most part.
The raw statistics of 2016 were not something which gave Ronaldo the edge over Leo Messi and allowed him to cross the Ballon d’Or finish line first. It was the entire picture though, the one which paints the Portugal man a national hero, leader by words and actions.
His inspiring post-match locker room speech in France was inspiring and quite emotional, his touchline instructions little prior to it an eye-bulging moment as well. But Ronaldo took his caring side and moved it to club level as well.
With Welsh wizard Gareth Bale crushing to the ground in pain, clutching his leg with both of his hands, it was Cristiano Ronaldo – as a true leader he has evolved into – who ran first to his aid.
In another instant Ronaldo was running towards the touchline, reporting Zinedine Zidane of the extent of the problem, acting like a true sportsman and painting himself in an unlikely image.
Ronaldo and Bale share a turbulent history of reported personal bust-ups as it once appeared that Ronaldo felt threatened by the imposing presence of the Welsh star. The pair grew closer together however and became aware of their mutual influence and the benefits their symbiosis had on Real Madrid’s results.
Cristiano’s display of care and emotions towards the well-being of his Welsh teammate was a tiny detail but a definite proof of Ronaldo’s changed nature.
He truly is a different man.
A better one as well.
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