The most prestigious individual honor in the world of soccer is on the line tomorrow when the Ballon d’Or award is handed out in Zurich. The three candidates up for the award this season include Real Madrid‘s Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona‘s Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich‘s Franck Ribery.
While the award is supposed to be given to the best player in the game and their merits on the pitch, in recent years the voters for the award have balked at that criteria and have seemingly made the award a popularity contest. Although there are three nominees up for the award, it would be a shock if Ribery walked away with the award, thus leaving the two biggest stars in the sport to battle for the coveted award once again. Fans of the game have stood steadfast in their support of either Ronaldo or Messi, but this year it is undeniable that Ronaldo should win the Ballon d’Or award.
Ronaldo strives to be great in his appearance on and off the field, but it is his electrifying plays and sensational goals that have captured the hearts of many in the soccer community. Ronaldo has proven he is one of the best in the game year in and year out, but 2013 just might have been the best year of the superstar’s career. In 2013, in 56 appearances for his club team Real Madrid, Ronaldo tallied 66 goals and had 94 chances created.
Ronaldo is the heart and soul for his international side Portugal where he single-handedly wins game after game for the country. He netted four goals in a World Cup playoff against Sweden, which propelled the Portuguese to a World Cup berth. Ronaldo’s last Ballon d’Or award came in 2008, but his chances of winning the award this year look promising.
Messi has long been held in high regard for his play on the pitch, but it is arguably his quiet nature and team-first mentality that has won him many individual awards. Messi’s play can be seen as passive and more of a finesse attack when compared to Ronaldo’s straightforward and relentless attack, but Messi is still one of the top goal-scoring threats in the game. In 45 appearances for his club side, Messi scored 42 goals and had 70 chances created, but is this enough to win the award?
Messi has been feared at the club level for years and is always a threat to eliminate a team in Champions League play, but his play at the international level can only be seen as subpar at best. Messi is not the same electrifying player for Argentina and sometimes is not even the best player on the field for the South American side. Messi has won four Ballon d’Or awards compared to Ronaldo’s one and another one would only cement his place in history.
Ronaldo and Messi have been adversaries ever since Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2003, and this award proves pivotal to the legacy left by both. For Ronaldo, it means a step in the right direction and soothes the pain of the past controversial decisions regarding this award. For Messi, the award means a place in the pantheon of greats and a lasting legacy in the game of soccer. Who should win the Ballon d’Or?
In any sport, you always want the best to shine on the brightest stage and that has been Ronaldo time and time again. While Ronaldo thrives under pressure at the international level, Messi seems to fade into the background and becomes nothing more than an afterthought. Messi might be the more team-oriented player, but the Ballon d’Or award is specifically an individual achievement award given to the best in the game. Although past years could be considered a toss-up, this has undoubtedly been the year of Ronaldo and he is deserving of this high honor.
Greg Douglas is a Soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.